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Sunday, December 20, 2020
December 20, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:32 PM :: 1250 Views

Don’t Give Me Back Rent, I Want to Continue Hiding from Tax

Hawaii: Obamacare Funnels Taxpayer Money To Cover Elective Abortions

Will Courts Stop Presidents From Calling Oceans ‘National Monuments’?

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 19, 2020

Ige: There’s No Money To ‘Sustain Government As It Existed’—”we could raise taxes”

CB: … Ige has already announced plans for twice-a-month furloughs for 10,160 state workers starting next month, and warned that state worker layoffs will also be necessary to cope with the gigantic state budget crisis triggered by the pandemic.

As bad as that may sound, it is just the beginning.

Ige also issued instructions to state departments earlier this year to plan for cuts of 10%, 15% or 20% of their general fund spending in addition to furloughs, and the public has not heard yet what the impact might be from those cuts.

The administration set a goal of cutting $600 million a year from the annual state operating budget, and Ige said making cuts of that magnitude has proved to be extremely difficult.

“Demand for service is the highest it’s been, and the reality is we just don’t have the revenues to sustain government as it existed,” he said….

Ige has announced the anticipated state budget shortfall is $1.4 billion per year for the next four years, but state tax revenue is not expected to drop off by nearly that much.

State tax collections dropped from an all-time high of $7.14 billion a year ago to $6.69 billion in the year that ended June 30. To cope with that sudden drop, the Ige administration restricted hiring and spending last fiscal year, and used $648 million from the state’s “rainy day” budget reserve fund to help balance the budget.

Tax collections are expected to drop again this year to $5.96 billion, and the administration in October borrowed $750 million to help make up the difference in the current fiscal year that ends June 30….

The state Council on Revenues, a panel of experts tasked with estimating state tax collections, is projecting tax collections will recover somewhat in the fiscal year that begins July 1, bouncing back by about $500 million. The council expects total state tax collections will amount to more than $6.46 billion next year.

But Ige seems skeptical that will actually happen, remarking that it is “very difficult” to envision an abrupt $500 million increase in tax collections next year….

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said the Employees Retirement System expects about 2,000 public employees will retire this year, and calculates the state could save as much as $130 million a year in salary and benefits if the administration leaves those retirees’ positions vacant.

Luke also believes the state could “raid” unspent balances that have built up in state special funds, which are accounts that are funded by taxes or fees that are earmarked for specific purposes.

Lawmakers could make a one-time reduction in the state budget shortfall by shifting $400 million to $600 million in special fund money into the general treasury, she said.

Some advocates have suggested the state increase income taxes on the wealthiest families in Hawaii to help balance the budget, and Ige acknowledged a tax hike is a possibility.

“I suppose we could raise taxes, that would be one option, but I don’t have the authority to raise taxes directly,” he said.

When asked if he would sign a tax increase into law if the Legislature sends one to him next year, he replied: “I’m contemplating a couple of things myself, just to make everything work.”…

MN: Teachers’ union files complaint over furloughs

read … Ige: There’s No Money To ‘Sustain Government As It Existed’

How One death on Kauai Was Used to Destroy Tourism Industry

AP: … Clark got COVID-19 in November and died about 10 days later. At age 84, he worked until he contracted the disease and most recently shuttled airline pilots and crew to and from the airport. Airline crews are exempt from the state’s testing and quarantine rules.

(This case is an argument for ‘Focused Protection.’) 

The day after Clark’s death, Kauai officials said they would opt out of the state’s testing program and require visitors to again quarantine for two weeks whether or not they test negative for COVID-19 before arriving….

read … Mostly virus-free Kauai hit by COVID-19 pandemic after travel resumes

Lackluster Hawaii tourism widens losses for hotels

SA: … Holiday traffic in November — the first full month of the Hawaii Safe Travels pre-arrivals testing program — didn’t help Hawaii hotels much.

Only 22.1% of available hotel rooms were occupied in November, according to new data released by Hendersonville, Tenn.-based STR.

The 72.1% statewide occupancy decline from November 2019 was the lowest monthly dip since April, when Hawaii hotel occupancy plummeted 88.9%. Still, statewide occupancy in November was far below the 55% to 60% occupancy level that most hotels must reach to attain profitability….

Part of the issue for Hawaii hotels is that fewer arriving passengers are staying in them. Also, constant changes to the Hawaii Safe Travels program has created market confusion, which has lead to cancellations of existing reservations and a slowdown in future bookings.

Tourism is not expected to get much better soon, exacerbating already bleak trickle-down economic impacts that have left Hawaii with the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

From Oct. 15 to Dec. 17, Hawaii Safe Travels screened 617,889 interisland and trans-Pacific travelers. However, only 429,018 or some 69% were visitors. Some 263,717 or 61% of visitors said they were coming for vacation or pleasure. Only 167, 771 of the screened travelers, some 27%, planned to stay in a hotel and of those, 151,481, roughly 25%, were visitors….

read … Lackluster Hawaii tourism widens losses for hotels

Hawaii’s Artificial fiascos, such as rail and stadium

Borreca: … The first is a new crisis. Last week, the state Stadium Authority announced that football and any new events would not be held in Aloha Stadium, built in 1974 by former Gov. John A. Burns. The authority announced that it was just too dangerous to allow the public into the rusting structure. …

(CLUE: This is only a crisis because we believe them.)

To the rescue are plans slowly moving along with three bidders proposing a new, smaller facility. First a developer must be selected, a financial plan approved, designs drafted and OK’d, and the construction started and then finished — all in three years.

University of Hawaii President David Lassner said last week: “The project isn’t really out of the starting gate yet, so this is of great concern to us.”

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

Rail, however, appears to be built mostly on stumbling blocks. The biggest is, as it has always been, Dillingham Boulevard. Underneath it flows the major water line for Honolulu’s urban core. Above it runs one of the principal power line routes into downtown. Traffic on Dillingham is a 24-hour-a-day deal. It is lined with privately owned small businesses that must move before anybody starts putting in rail pillars. Last week rail officials said they were at least a year away from buying all of the property or easements to deal with utility lines. Meaning that contractors are a year away from putting an X on the map and saying “Dig here.”

(Simple Solution: Skip Dillingham.  Run the rail line above HCC campus.)

read … Hawaii’s never-ending quest for good leaders to overcome fiascos, such as rail and stadium

Physician Shortage—Hawaii GE Tax -- Only State Taxing Medicaid and Medicare Benefits 

HTH: … Hawaii’s physician shortage has loomed large for years but worsened in 2020 — and on the Big Island, the lack of doctors became even more dire.

A 2020 Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment — completed by Dr. Kelley Withy, a professor at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and a physician workforce researcher — found that Hawaii County is short 287 doctors and has 53% fewer physicians than similar-sized communities on the mainland.

Maui County has a 43% shortage, Kauai has a 33% shortage and Oahu has a 20% shortage. Statewide, there is a need for 29% more physicians.

The Big Island had a doctor shortage of 44% last year.

Ideally, Withy said, Hawaii County should have 539 physicians, but instead there are 270….

“In Hawaii, where the cost of providing services are high … a lot of practices are having a difficult time staying viable,” he said

According to the assessment, there are 2,812 full-time equivalent physicians in Hawaii, compared to the 3,529 physicians that are needed statewide.

However, the assessment finds there’s actually a shortage of more than 1,000 physicians statewide when factoring in the needs for specific islands and specific medical specialties.

Grosskreutz said the goal of the crisis task force is to make Hawaii a viable place to practice for younger health care providers….

Reimbursement rates from insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as high overhead and the state’s general excise tax on medical services, are among some of the factors that make it difficult to attract and keep health care providers here….

A bill to exempt health care services provided by doctors and primary care APRNs from the general excise tax was introduced in the last legislative session, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grosskreutz said the bill had passed the state Senate but was not voted on during the emergency session called last spring.

The task force will ask Big Island lawmakers and Mayor Mitch Roth to support introduction of a more focused bill in the upcoming session that will help recruit more health care providers to the neighbors islands to help care for the growing number of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

According to Grosskreutz, Hawaii is only one of two states that taxes health care services, and the only state that taxes Medicare benefits.

“We feel that taxing patients for their health care when they are sick or injured is socially unjust, particularly during global pandemic,” he said. “Often these patients are unable to work and struggling to care for their families.”

read … Hawaii County lacks hundreds of physicians needed to sustain the population

More EV Subsidies and Mandates in 2021 Legislative and Council Agenda

CB: … pass into law a target that 100% of passenger vehicle sales be emissions-free by 2035. This target date would be a floor, not a ceiling and it should rely mostly on incentives.

For example, counties can accelerate this goal in their own legislation, but they won’t be able to exempt themselves from it. Hawaii EV Association is working with Hawaii County on a bill that would commit the county to 100% renewable energy for its buildings and fleets by 2030 — an ambitious but achievable target that will inspire the private sector to achieve similar goals.

This kind of approach allows for local leadership to play a role and for jurisdictions that are blessed with abundant renewable energy resources, like the Big Island, to lead the way in terms of what is possible….

The incentives-based approach to achieving this ambitious statewide target should include things like:

  • A focus on new EV charging infrastructure, both at public locations and private businesses, including fast-charging stations
  • Robust education and outreach efforts on the benefits and features of EVs
  • Tax credits for zero-emissions vehicle purchases and charger installations and/or a state rebate for vehicle purchases and charger installations
  • Renewed benefits like free municipal parking and continued HOV lane access (applicable only to Oahu)
  • Future-proof new homes, including multi-unit dwellings, for EVs by requiring new homes to include EV charging infrastructure (wiring to facilitate future charger installation)
  • Improve home EV charging utility rates to keep charging costs low

(CLUE: ‘Moving the smokestack’ doe not equal ‘emissions free’)

Importantly, the above strategies must take into account low- and middle-income families. Incentives should be structured to enable the democratization of sustainable electric transportation of all kinds. For example, rebates and tax credits may be limited by income and by EV purchase prices.

BEST COMENT: “I own a 2012 Chevy Volt which after 7 years and 2 months suddenly needed a new battery. I was torn between a $9500 replacement battery or dumping a perfectly good car with dead battery at the auto dismantler. No one, not the car dealer or the dismantler, knew if the battery was to be recycled or simply dumped somewhere. This caused me great concern. I opted to replace the battery. Not sure what the dealer did with the old one. Do we have a solution for the increase in a very toxic lithium residual from EV cars? Can replacement batteries be more affordable?”

read … How To Ramp Up Hawaii’s Use Of Electric Cars

Always Fake: Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning to stop pretending after 15 years

PBN: … The company said late Friday that it would wind down operations by the end of January. Construction on the $250 million project never started….

Ulupono Initiative, the social investing firm founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and partner Capital Cooling of Sweden took majority ownership of the project in 2014. Ulupono Initiative had invested more than $6 million in the project…. 

IM: 

SA: Plans for seawater air conditioning in Honolulu dropped

Background:

read … Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning to end development after 15 years 

‘Unlawful Conduct’ Councilmember a board member for company receiving CARES funds

WHT: … Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz steered taxpayer money to a not-yet nonprofit corporation on whose board she sits, records show.

Kierkiewicz gave $63,000 to the nonprofit Hawaii Rise Foundation, earmarked for Vibrant Hawaii, a corporation Kierkiewicz helped form and where she currently serves as an unpaid director.

The money was part of $100,000 each council member was allocated from the county’s $80 million share of federal coronavirus relief funds. In all, Vibrant Hawaii received about $2 million as a subcontractor for Hawaii Rise.

Kierkiewicz did not disclose her relationship with Vibrant Hawaii on her annual financial report filed Jan. 31 with the Office of the County Clerk, as required by law. On a subsequent report filed Tuesday after West Hawaii Today started asking questions, she disclosed she served on the leadership council for the organization from September 2019 until September 2020, and then on the board from October 2020 to the present time….

Nor did Kierkiewicz disclose her relationship to Vibrant Hawaii when the newspaper asked her Dec. 8 why she chose Hawaii Rise as the recipient of some of her funds, which came to the county as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Instead, she extolled the work Vibrant Hawaii was doing in the Puna community….

government officials handling taxpayer money have specific procurement and ethics laws that must be followed to ensure all transactions are transparent and above-board and don’t create perceived or real favoritism in awarding contracts.

“The State of Hawaii Procurement Code of Ethics (HAR Chapter 3-131 Compliance) mandates that a public employee shall ‘refrain from any activity that would create a conflict between personal interests and the interests of the state,’” said an attorney responding to the newspaper’s request for an opinion on HARO, a source connection for experts and journalists.

“The law mandates that any such conflict should be identified and eliminated,” said David Reischer, CEO of the New York City-based LegalAdvice.com. “At the very minimum there should be disclosure of the conflict and a full hearing on the matter. A Hawaii County Council person that does not do the above can be charged with unlawful conduct.”

The county ethics code requires immediate disclosure of actions “proposed or pending before the council.”…

read … Kierkiewicz a board member for company receiving CARES funds

Pandemic-related stress fueling domestic violence

KITV: … Domestic Violence Action Center reported a 46 percent spike in cases between March and October. …

read … Pandemic-related stress fueling domestic violence

Sister Isle Counties Agree: COVID is Opportunity to Make You Pay to Create Feminist-Socialist Utopia

TGI: …The economic hardship of the novel coronavirus has disproportionately affected women in terms of profession, childcare and household responsibilities, a Kaua‘i County Council resolution states.

On Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council joined Maui and Hawai‘i Island councils in passing a resolution supporting a “feminist economy recovery plan” and urging the equity, inclusion and social and economic justice principles be implemented in recovery initiatives.

The council, through the resolution, urged the county to “view this pandemic through a gendered lens and incorporate principles of equity, inclusion and social and economic justice” through county-run COVID-19 programs and language….

In April, the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women issued a plan, “Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs,” deemed the nation’s first feminist economic recovery plan for the pandemic….

Khara Jabola-Carolus spoke to the council Wednesday via Zoom from her home…

False Police Report--How Jabola-Carolus Keeps her Job:

read … County backs nation’s first feminist economic recovery plan

Corona Virus News:
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