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January 17, 2021 News Read
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Barreling Toward a Tax Hike!

GOP Guide to 2021 Legislative Session

Hawaii Family Forum Celebrates 23 Years

Grassroot Institute 10 most-viewed stories of 2020

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted January 16, 2021

$400M GE Tax Hike Planned

SA Editorial: Linda Chu Takayama, Ige’s chief of staff, told the House Finance Committee on Tuesday that tax possibilities include a wealth tax and a higher tax on fuel. In general, the aim should be to avoid the broadest-based taxes, such as the general excise tax that is assessed at each transaction stage.

(Know them by what they deny!)

But temporarily pausing certain GET exemptions has been a useful strategy in the past, Saiki said on Tuesday, yielding $400 million.

(Translation: That’s the plan.)

Some of the other issues expected to arise:

>> Mask mandate enforcement should be strengthened, Saiki said, by passing legislation to make violations punishable by citation and a fine, like a traffic ticket, rather than a misdemeanor charge that involves the courts and is usually waved off.

>> Saiki would like to make the Safe Travels program rules more consistent statewide, which would lead to less mixed messaging to prospective tourists. That is a good impulse, but it remains to be seen how it can be accomplished through statute, which is less adaptable to varying COVID circumstances from island to island. Further, the advent of vaccines may require adjustments to policy that lawmakers can’t anticipate now.

>> The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands idea of a casino on Oahu will get the debate that it’s due; Belatti said she doubts it has the needed popular support, and Ige is opposed, but it should give the subject of DHHL revenue enhancements the airing it needs.

One bright spot Belatti noted: advances made in teleworking. This, she said, should enable lawmakers to “reimagine” government service delivery more effectively. It will compel discussions with labor unions, but that conversation needs to start.

Also, leaders have assured the public of easy access to engage in the process through virtual hearings and presentations online….

(Between COVID and Trumpsters the Lege has every excuse it needs to shield itself from protest while raising our taxes.)

read … Hope for best, plan for worst for Hawaii legislature

Ige Sets up 2021 Legislative Session to Produce Tax Hikes

Borreca: … Hawaii’s state budget, with its tourist-dependent economy, is one of the worst in the nation. This is not a pessimistic budget; it is an apocalyptic budget.

Instead of (Abercrombie’s 2009) $700 million two-year deficit, Ige is tasked with wrestling with a budget featuring a one-year projected $1.4 billion state budget shortfall.

Ige’s only budgetary good news is that he thinks he can postpone layoffs until the next fiscal year.

(Translation: He is giving the HGEA etal a chance to make legislators raise taxes.)

At present, the budget is largely based on borrowing money to get through the present lack of tax collections and then hope, hope, hope that federal aid is on the way.

Despite the brutality of Ige’s economy, the plans to attack the deficit are more modest than Abercrombie’s direct focus on public workers’ income….

In legislative testimony last week, Ige Cabinet members said the governor will propose an income tax increase for wealthier Hawaii citizens, perhaps an increase in gasoline taxes and suspending state tax credits and exemptions.

The Honolulu Star- Advertiser reported last week that Ige said raising taxes during an economic downturn is “the last thing” his administration wants to do. He has taken a similar stance with imposing furloughs on state workers to reduce expenses.

But tax increases are likely going to be considered by state lawmakers regardless of whether Ige includes such proposals in his detailed budget plan.

(Card-carrying DSA member) State Rep. Amy Perruso, a (Socialist) Wahiawa Democrat, is calling for a bill to increase the state income tax rate on Hawaii residents with high incomes. But others, such as Linda Chu Takayama, Ige’s chief of staff, said there is a concern among tax experts that Hawaii really doesn’t have enough wealthy people to tax.

(CLUE: Rich people here are retired and/or are residents of other states because they aren't going to let the DSA steal from them.)

“The general consensus is that the tax wouldn’t generate much and we would need much more to generate the kind of money that is needed,” she said during a Finance Committee hearing last week.

(Translation hike Fuel Tax and enact Sugar Tax and increase GE Tax ‘temporarily’ because you little people can’t afford to live in two states at one time.)

So far, the Ige cuts haven’t really been tallied because they are in the formal budget document that is still being prepared. “Everyone” (Translation: HGEA, HSTA, UPW, UHPA) who has seen their portion of the budget, such as the Department of Education or the social workers depending on state help, is screaming….

read … Even as Hawaii leaders scramble to fill deep money pit, hopes and dreams are pegged on Biden

Hawaii Tourism Authority spent ‘exorbitant’ amounts marketing to visitors as lockdowns dropped demand

SA: … It cost the Hawaii Tourism Authority more than $381 in marketing dollars for every visitor from Japan who came to the isles in November.

Think that was a bad return on investment? It was actually worse in April when the complete collapse of Hawaii tourism resulted in HTA spending roughly $15,614 on marketing for every visitor from Japan who flew into the state.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which handles marketing for the state’s core U.S market, also spent more in April, when its return on investment hit $111.26 per arrival, but the cost per arrival dropped back down to $3.12 in November.….

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which handles marketing for the state’s core U.S market, also spent more in April, when its return on investment hit $111.26 per arrival, but the cost per arrival dropped back down to $3.12 in November….

For the 2020 fiscal year, HTA estimated the cost per arrival for every U.S. visitor was $7.13, up more than 118% from the prior year. The cost per arrival for Japan during fiscal year 2020 was significantly higher at $17.17, a nearly 201% increase.

The cost to bring visitors from Canada was $2.01, a nearly 36% rise. HTA spent $15.33 on Oceania, a more than 193% increase. It cost HTA $10.13, a nearly 66% increase, per arrival from Korea…. 

SA Editorial: Marketing to few Hawaii tourists

read … Hawaii Tourism Authority spent ‘exorbitant’ amounts marketing to visitors as lockdowns dropped demand

Congresswoman Concerned About Hawaii CARES Spending Got No Answers From Ige

CB: … Five months after a California congresswoman asked Hawaii for answers about its public health response and its spending of federal money, Gov. David Ige hasn’t provided her with any information.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, who chairs a House subcommittee on health, expressed concern in August about the state’s worsening COVID-19 outbreak, which was resulting in new cases of over 200 per day.

She requested a response to her questions on or before Aug. 28.

Civil Beat tried to get Ige’s response to Eshoo via a public records request in September. Ordinarily, the governor’s office would be expected to provide the record, or cite a reason they could not, within 10 days. However, during the pandemic, Ige has allowed government agencies to disregard those kinds of deadlines.

On Friday, after The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest contacted the Attorney General’s Office about the lack of response, Ige’s office shared a one-page letter he sent dated Sept. 2.

It is five sentences long.

“We are in receipt of your letter dated August 19, 2020. We share your concern about our recent increase in COVID-19 cases and I assure you that our departments are working around the clock to best address the situation.

“We are in the process of compiling the information requested and will require additional time to ensure that we provide the level of detail desired. We will provide a response as soon as possible.

“Thank you for your concern and the opportunity to share the hard work that we are doing.”

A representative from Eshoo’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

In an emailed statement, Ige Communications Director Cindy McMillan said the request from Eshoo was forwarded to the “departments that have been focused on pandemic activities” but they were “unable to provide the details requested.”

“To my knowledge, Rep. Eshoo has not sent a follow-up request,” McMillan said….

Background:

read … Congresswoman Concerned About Hawaii Pandemic Response Got No Answers From Ige

Current state of homelessness on Kaua‘i discussed

TGI: …Varner said the county is currently working on an ‘Ohana Zone project called the Kealaula on Pua Loke in Lihu‘e….

As of Jan. 8, there are 238 individuals living (in tent cities) at the county beach parks, which offer showers, bathrooms and running water….

The 238 individuals include 72 adults and five children living at Lydgate Park; 59 adults and 10 children at ‘Anini Beach Park; 44 adults and nine children at Salt Pond Beach Park; 26 adults and four children at Lucy Wright Park; and eight adults and one child at Anahola Beach Park.

Varner said six households of 25 individuals moved into the Kealaula housing project from beach parks in August….

Bridging the Gap Chair Brandee Menino said that, statewide, 448 of its clients are families with minor children, 57% are families led by single mothers, 28% are children and 43% are keiki 5 years old and younger.

Menino also said 4% of the houseless community has lived in Hawai‘i under a year, while 40% have lived in the state for over 20 years. Six percent of the statewide houseless community are veterans and 10% are kupuna.

According to Bridging the Gap’s Homeless Management Information system, 54% are families with children.

Menino said that, on Kaua‘i, 7% of the houseless community has lived in Hawai‘i under a year, 51% have lived in Hawai‘i over 20 years, while 7% are U.S. veterans and 14% of the houseless community on Kaua‘i are kupuna.

Menino said from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, some 114 people moved into permanent housing, a 30% homelessness exit rate into permanent housing. They were 497 homeless persons served in Kaua‘i County.,,,

“As a result of this collective effort, the percent of homeless individuals exiting programs to permanent housing increased from 54% in 2019 to 55% in 2020, despite the ongoing public health challenges,” Morishige said.

read … Current state of homelessness in Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i discussed

5K on Kaua‘i vaccinated

TGI: … Nearly 5,000 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 on Kaua‘i, with the rollout for educators and some kupuna beginning last week.

Friday, Wilcox Medical Center had 140 appointments at its first clinic to vaccinate kupuna 75 and up. Nearly 800 more and caregivers are signed up to get their COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine this week at Wilcox clinics.

“We really want to be part of the solution,” said Faith Campbell, marketing manager at Wilcox. Campbell said she is hopeful that more appointment slots will be available as more vaccines arrive on island….

Those having difficulty making appointments may call the county OEA at 241-4470.

To sign up for a vaccine at Wilcox Medical Center in Lihu‘e, visit wilcoxhealth.org/vaccine.

To sign up for a vaccine at KVMH or SMMH, visit kauai.hhsc.org….

read … 5K on Kaua‘i vaccinated; kupuna struggle

Gas use down 18%, Hawaii County highway fund takes a hit from less driving

WHT: … drivers used about 18% less gasoline during a pandemic year that translated to fewer commutes and fewer tourists. It also translated to less money for road repair…

Gas consumption was tallied at 63.6 million gallons for the first 11 months of 2020, the most current numbers available as recorded by the state Department of Taxation. That compares to 77.5 million gallons during the same time period in 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic….

Less travel translates to less money in the county’s highway fund, but so far, the county’s been able to keep its road-repair schedule on track, said Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst. The repair money — $2.9 million this year — is allocated to districts based on their percentage of local roads.

Hawaii County officials expect the highway fund, which is funded by county fuel taxes, to take a $5.3 million hit in the fiscal year that ends June 30. That’s despite a three-year series of tax hikes bringing the tax to 23 cents per gallon, tying with Maui for the highest local fuel tax surcharge in the state.

“So for the first five months of the fiscal year (July to November), volume is down by 6.6 million gallons or $1.5 million dollars,” Sako said….

read … Gas use down 18%, County highway fund takes a hit from less driving

Kauai businesses give dour assessment of survival chances under travel restrictions

PBN: … Kauai’s stringent visitor policy — coupled with a lack of tourism dollars — has resulted in skepticism for survival among Garden Isle business owners, according to a survey released this week.

The mid-December survey by the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and the Kauai Chapter of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association had more than 100 respondents — 49% of whom indicated their business would not survive more than 90 more days without a significant return of tourism.

About 91% of respondents fell under the categories of lodging, restaurants, retail, service and activity companies. The remaining categories were agriculture, manufacturing, construction and wholesale/trade. Respondents ranged from small businesses to large corporations, according to the Kauai Chamber.

Only 17% of respondents felt their business would be unaffected by the return — or lack thereof — of tourism in the next 12 months. …

read … Kauai businesses give dour assessment of survival chances under travel restrictions

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