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Tuesday, February 9, 2021
February 9, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:22 PM :: 1808 Views

Four Bills to Make Housing More Affordable

Auditor: Stadium Authority has substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern

Hawaii #1 in USA for Fast-Food Restaurants

Senate Judiciary Committee Backs Maui Judicial Appointees

Hawaii Anti-Gun Bills to be Heard in Committee

Ige -- Aloha Stadium still usable, Kill $350M Boondoggle

SA: … Gov. David Ige questioned the wisdom of spending $350 million for a successor to Aloha Stadium and suggested the state invest further in the repair and maintenance of the deteriorating facility to keep it “usable for the University (of Hawaii) for many, many years to come.”

The comments on Monday, during a wide-ranging interview on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii, quickly stunned some legislators and proponents of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.

Ige said, “I’ve really been supportive that we ought to make the investments in repair and maintenance on Aloha Stadium. I’ve been to events there. I think we made significant investments to improve the current structure. I believe it is safe…”

Ige added, “There are a lot of things that we could do within the existing facility that would make it usable for the university for many, many years to come. And that would, in the overall scheme of things, cost us less in construction funds than we are currently talking about. The biggest challenge right now is that a replacement stadium would cost $350 million or more. And that’s really hard to take away from public schools and university needs, not to mention our health care and health needs that we have here in the state. That’s the biggest challenge. The current stadium is still safe and usable and we ought to be maximizing the use of it.”

Ige’s comments came as UH is gearing up to spend an estimated $6 million to retrofit the Clarence T. C. Ching Athletic Complex for use as an on-campus home for the football team for several years beginning with the 2021 season. The Aloha Stadium Authority announced in December that its facility would not be available…. 

Ferd Lewis: Gov. David Ige’s comments on maintaining the aging Aloha Stadium cloud the outlook for a new facility in Halawa

PBN: Ige's Aloha Stadium comments met with rebuke from DTL co-owner Donovan Dela Cruz

read … Ige believes Aloha Stadium still usable

Maunakea: What’s Really Sacred is the Master Lease

WHT: … “We are very concerned here on Hawaii Island,” Wendy Laros said during a Monday informational briefing of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness.

“The idea of scrapping the existing management to start a new process is counterproductive to supporting the astronomy industry, an industry that generates needed economic diversity to our state,” Laros told the committee. “This is simply not the time to create more uncertainty to Hawaii’s economy as our state continues to struggle due to COVID-19 impacts, and will do so in the foreseeable future.

“We just ask that you will work with and support the university to create solutions.”

The UH lease with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for the 11,288-acre Maunakea Science Reserve expires in 2033, and a nonexclusive easement for the Maunakea Access Road, about 71 acres, also expires in 2033. The lease for the 19-acre Halepohaku mid-level facility expires in 2041….

Saiki, who chairs the COVID-19 economic committee — which is a panel including medical and business leaders as well as legislators — stopped short Monday of making any commitments in his reply to Laros.

“I just want to assure you that I have been working and have been in communication with the university for over a year on this topic, as well as other interested parties,” Saiki said. “We have tried to see what options are available for the state, and I just felt at this point that to provide more stability with our astronomy industry, that we need to look at a new way of governing, a new form of governance on Maunakea.”

Saiki said last week he would introduce a resolution in the House “to begin the process of reassessing a new governance structure for Maunakea.”…

The future of the mountain’s master lease is vital to the astronomy community.

Greg Chun, UH’s director of Maunakea stewardship, said last week the university will continue its efforts to secure an extension to the Maunakea master lease “because we have to, we need to.”

Opponents of TMT, a next-generation telescope backed by an international consortium with an estimated price tag of $2.4 billion, hailed Saiki’s announcement and said they are hoping for a prominent seat at the table in any new management structure.…

Precisely as Explained: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read … President and CEO of Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce voices concerns over Maunakea comments

Bill to roll back employers' unemployment tax rate passes Hawaii House

PBN: … A bill that would roll back a large scheduled increase in the amount of unemployment tax Hawaii employers must pay to the state’s unemployment insurance fund was fast-tracked in the House to pass third reading on Monday and is headed to the Senate, where it could be fast-tracked for passage by early March.

House Bill 1278 was one of several bills that address the rate increase that could have quadrupled the amount employers pay per worker into the unemployment insurance fund, which has been depleted because of the Covid-19 shutdowns.

The fund was set to increase next month to schedule rate H, the highest rate, in mid-March, but HB1278 rolls that back to schedule rate D for 2021 and 2022. Another bill, HB470, would have rolled the rate back to the pre-pandemic schedule rate C for 2021, D for 2022 and E for 2022.

Business owners and organizations such as the Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Automobile Dealers’ Association submitted written testimony in support of the bill.….

KITV: In order to prevent automatic assessment increases from being triggered, the Governor must sign the bill into law before next month.

GRIH: Testimony: SB1159 SD1 — Relating to the unemployment insurance tax

read … Bill to roll back employers' unemployment tax rate passes Hawaii House

Hawaii Senate Proposes $12 Minimum Wage By 2022

CB: … Hawaii lawmakers on Monday took a preliminary step toward increasing the minimum wage to $12 by July 2022.

The Senate Labor, Culture and the Arts Committee unanimously agreed to move forward with a measure to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage for the first time in four years. Hawaii’s wages last increased to the current $10.10 an hour in 2018.

Senate Bill 676 does not make any further step increases, and labor advocates also urged the lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $17 in the next five years….

The bill must next win approval from a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees by Feb. 18….

SA: Hawaii legislators could boost minimum wage to $12 next year

read … Hawaii Senate Proposes $12 Minimum Wage By 2022

Proposed $1/pack Cigarette Tax Increase Advances At Legislature

CB: … A proposed $1-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax is now in play at the Legislature, making it the latest in a string of proposed tax increases floated by Gov. David Ige and lawmakers to raise money for the state or get people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Ige has proposed a tax on soda and other sugary beverages, while a Senate committee last week proposed a new 10-cents-per-drink tax on alcoholic beverages. House members have proposed a new surcharge on car rentals to raise money to help cope with the effects of climate change.

On Monday, the Senate Health Committee chimed in by advancing a proposal to increase the state cigarette tax by an unspecified amount.

The original draft of Senate Bill 138 would have increased the state tax from 16 cents per cigarette to 21 cents per cigarette, which would add $1 to the cost of a pack. However, Health Committee Chairman Jarrett Keohokalole amended the measure to leave the specific amount of the tax increase blank.

Leaving amounts blank in bills is a common practice at the Legislature, and lawmakers will specify the exact size of the tax increase later if the measure continues to advance.

The state now collects about $110 million in cigarette taxes per year, with most of that money deposited into the state general treasury. The state Tax Department estimates SB 138 as originally written would raise an extra $32 million per year.….

read … Proposed Cigarette Tax Increase Advances At Legislature

Soda tax won’t curb isle obesity, may hurt low-income people

SA: … Who doesn’t want to curb obesity?  Unfortunately for supporters of the tax, the evidence isn’t really there. Consumption taxes like this are often highly regressive, meaning that low-income residents bear most of the burden.

Looking to Mexico provides a good case study on the efficacy of soda taxes. With one of the highest obesity rates in the world, Mexico enacted a soft drink tax, increasing prices by nearly 13%, with the goal of reducing caloric intake.

A time-series analysis of the impact of the tax showed that it reduced consumption of these drinks by only 3.8%, which represents less than seven calories per day. Estimates from Canada also show the same trend. When the Canadian province of PEI looked at the prospect of a soft drink tax, a 20 cent per liter tax was only estimated to reduce caloric intake from soda by 2%, which is approximately 2.5 calories per day. While these taxes do in fact reduce consumption to some degree, the reductions are so small that they have virtually no impact on obesity rates.

To make matters worse, not only are taxes like this ineffective in combating obesity, they are heavily regressive. Looking again at the data from Mexico, the tax implemented there was largely paid for by those with a low socioeconomic status.

In fact, a majority of the revenue, upwards of 63%, was generated from families at, or below, the poverty line. If we take the governor’s estimation of $60 million a year in revenue, it is reasonable to assume that $37.8 million of that revenue will be coming from the pockets of low-income Hawaii families. In other jurisdictions in the U.S., such as Cook County, Ill., no soda tax has avoided the uncomfortable reality of being regressive, which is partly why they eventually abandoned the tax altogether.

read … Soda tax won’t curb isle obesity, may hurt low-income people

Hawaii Senate Advances Asset Forfeiture Reform Measure

CB: … Hawaii’s law enforcement agencies may have a harder time profiting off seized property under a measure that won unanimous approval in the Senate Monday morning.

Senate Bill 294 would only allow agencies to sell property authorities believe may have been involved in a crime if the owner of that property is convicted of a felony offense. The state auditor found in a 2018 report that, in a sample of civil asset forfeiture cases, property was seized without a corresponding criminal charge in 26% of those cases.

“It doesn’t take away the tool of cracking down on crime,” Sen. Karl Rhoads, who sponsored the legislation, said on the Senate floor. “But it does take away the possibility you might have property taken away from you without being convicted.” ….

read … Hawaii Senate Advances Asset Forfeiture Reform Measure

Vaccinations Mean Outlook brightens for Hawaii economy

SA: … Hawaii’s economy should receive a beneficial one-two punch this summer from vaccinated tourists, vaccinated residents and federal aid.

The prospect of more vaccinated tourists visiting the state, perhaps under a corona­virus vaccine passport program, could mean Hawaii visitor arrivals will bounce back to around half their record 2019 level, or more, by summer and continue rising in the second half of this year.

At the same time, a new round of federal aid for businesses and individuals could reduce the size of a previously expected slump in statewide income by half or more this year….

read … Outlook brightens for Hawaii economy

Striking balance between public health, economic recovery

SA: … Since January, new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued their downward trend and discussions of reopening our economy have begun in earnest. The Hawaii Tourism & Business Coalition (HTBC) — representing tourism stakeholders and businesses of all sizes, including restaurants, attractions and retail — supports the bold and creative proposal by Lt. Gov. Josh Green to set “triggers” to relax COVID-19 mandates related to travel and gatherings as specific phases of the state’s vaccination schedule are completed.

We call upon Gov. David Ige and his administration to implement the proposal, which represents the best path forward for our community and the local economy. Moreover, it strikes a delicate balance between maintaining the health and safety of Hawaii residents while also reestablishing travel and beginning the arduous process of restoring our economy. Additionally, with trepidation regarding the vaccine at an all-time high, we feel that this would motivate both local, interisland travelers and mainland U.S.-based visitors to get vaccinated sooner rather than later to enable more safe travel to occur….

PBN: Hawaii’s pre-travel testing requirements to remain for vaccinated travelers, Ige says

read … Striking balance between public health, economic recovery

Useless: Hawaii 2.0 Recovery Plan Will Take 2 Years to Start up

CB: … the bulk of actions and “implementation pilots” won’t even start rolling out until the spring of 2022, under the current schedule….

When asked about the apparent lack of urgency surrounding the plan’s creation, McCarthy, who is director of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said some ideas will emerge in the short term but that there should be a raft of policy recommendations, all vetted by the public, to present to the Legislature in 2022.

“It’s really not that far away,” he said….

read … Stabilizing Or Stalling? State Officials Explain Why Hawaii’s Recovery Plan Will Take 2 Years

SIBA: Singing the same tune for nearly 30 years

ILind: … Milton Holt is executive director of SIBA at a reported annual salary of $100,000.

At first glance, SIBA-related campaign contributions don’t appear to be as extensive as they were in the early 1990s. However, a quick review of campaign spending records shows members of the SIBA board of directors contributed a total of $20,000 to Rick Blangiardi’s successful campaign for mayor on the same day, March 26, 2020, and a similar amount to Calvin Say’s successful city council campaign on October 16, 2020.

Neither candidate reported holding a campaign fundraising event on those respective dates.

Although the bill has been “postponed” for now, it can be put in play at any time at the discretion of the council’s budget committee chair, Calvin Say….

Related: Bill 31: Former Meth-head Helps Sand Island Lobby for Property Tax Cap

read … SIBA: Singing the same tune for nearly 30 years

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