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Wednesday, August 6, 2014
August 6, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:03 PM :: 3914 Views

Hawaii's Party Chairs Issue Joint Call For Early Voting To Be Safe

Statewide Locations: In Person Early Walk-In Voting Open Thru Thursday

Will $150M Obamacare Tax Lead to ILWU Strike?

Kalaeloa Raceway Park Closes--Blames Abercrombie

OHA Tribe? Secrets Spilled in Minnesota

Tribe? Feds to Meet With Hawaiians in N&S California

Navy Paying 69% More With $334M Solar Project

2014 April GET Collections Still Down Compared to 2013

DoE Announces School Closures on Hawaii Island, Maui County

Wikileaks: Japan refused Obama Hiroshima Apology

This Day in History: Truman Announces Hiroshima Bombing

Will Ige Backstab HSTA?

ILind: Ariyoshi touted his own record of fiscal conservatism while in office.

Instead of seeking additional revenues, I decided not to increase General Fund Taxes, live within our available resources, and still left a sizable surplus at the end of my tenure.

The former governor says Ige is in the same mold.

He understands State finances, having served as the Chair of the Senate’s Ways & Means Committee. Not just his knowledge, but his belief that Hawaii’s people are taxed enough, and that we must live within the resources available to us.

Ben Cayetano, another former governor, also supports Ige for similar reasons.

Cayetano had high unfavorable ratings by the time he left office, in part as a result of his penny pinching and hostility to public employee unions. The university suffered more than its share of budget cuts and austerity during his administration.

Do you remember the three-week strike by teachers and university faculty during Ben’s second term? It wasn’t pretty.

That’s why I’m worried about that phrase about people being “taxed enough” and living within “available resources,” because it has often been code for “stick it to public employees....”

related: Without Abercrombie, Education Reform a Political Orphan

read ... So Sad

Tourism Industry Hurt by 20% Kauai Property Tax Hikes

KGI: Visitor industry officials on Kauai say they are worried that recent property tax rate hikes approved by the Kauai County Council will deal a blow to one of the island’s main economic drivers: tourism.

And what that could mean, they say, are higher room rates and fewer visitors over time as some opt for cheaper vacation spots.

“Increase in real property taxes has a direct effect on our visitor industry,” Denise Wardlow, board president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Authority chapter on Kauai, wrote in an email. “For the most part, hotels, resorts and vacation rentals will work this additional expense into their pricing to offset the expense.”

During this past budget session, the Kauai County Council approved a wide range of tax rate hikes for most island properties, except for owner-occupied homes with existing homestead exemptions.

Hotels and resorts experienced the highest jump in real property tax rates, increasing to $10.85 from $9 per $1,000 net assessed value. (20% higher)

Real property tax rates for vacation rental properties, meanwhile, increased from $8 to $8.85 per $1,000 net assessed value.

“The dollar amount may look small when you are talking about $9 or $10, but when you calculate against the value of the hotel or resort, you are looking at increasing the cost of doing business by hundreds of thousands of dollars for each hotel and resort, and in many cases, is well over a half a million dollars increase over the two-year period,” Wardlow said.

read ... 20% Property Tax Hike

Keeping Prices High: HECO gets OK to bypass competitive bidding on 6 major solar projects

PBN: Hawaiian Electric Co. may now move ahead with contract negotiations with six solar energy developers on Oahu whose projects total 210 megawatts after state regulators approved the state’s largest electric utility’s request to forgo the competitive bidding process for the projects.

The approval this week follows the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the Honolulu-based utility’s request to bypass the competitive bidding process for three other solar-energy projects on Oahu that total about 33 megawatts.

Hawaiian Electric has said the approval will allow it to negotiate with renewable-energy developers at prices significantly slightly lower than any previously negotiated price (but still waaaay above the price if there were competitive bidding), as well as fast-track projects to commercial operation to take advantage of available tax credits. 

(It helps that all Hawaii alt-energy projects have been laughably overpriced.  With that as a backdrop, we can make this turkey look good.)

The average price for the six solar energy projects will be 15.6 cents per kilowatt hour, which would be about 31 percent lower than Hawaiian Electric’s (ridiculous) October 2013 on-peak avoided-cost of 22.7 cents per kilowatt hour.

The six projects also could reduce generation costs by about $22.5 million per year and by $450.8 million over the anticipated 20-year contract term. Total savings for the projects would result in a $2.13 per month savings for a typical residential bill.  (Compared to what? Some pie-in-the -sky estimate of ever-increasing oil prices?)

Hawaii regulators pointed out in the ruling that it does not mean that the PUC will approve any of the proposed power purchase agreements that have been granted waivers from the competitive bidding process. 

Hawaiian Electric now has four months to execute a power purchase agreement with each of the project’s developers.

read ... Keeping Prices High 

Hawaii Co Schemes to Grab More TAT in Legislative Power Shuffle

HTH: Upcoming leadership changes in the state Legislature could be good news for counties seeking to increase their share of hotel taxes, Hawaii County Council learned Tuesday at a meeting with several state legislators.

Only three lawmakers showed up after being invited by the council Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development. Committee Chairman Dennis Onishi of Hilo called the rare joint session with the island’s 11 state lawmakers to get an early start on budget issues before the Legislature convenes in January....

“I think President Kim is very determined once she makes up her mind,” said Rep. Mark Nakashima, a Democrat representing Hamakua and parts of Hilo.

A turnover of Senate leadership is expected. Kim and Senate Majority Floor Leader Will Espero are running for the 1st Congressional District seat, Ways and Means Chairman David Ige is running for governor and Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee is running for lieutenant governor.

Elected officials in Hawaii have to resign to run for state or county office, if the term for the new office begins prior to the end of the term for the old office. But state candidates for federal office do not. Kim and Espero lose the Senate seat only if elected to Congress.

Removing the TAT cap would make a big difference in the county’s $412.6 million budget.

In the 2012-13 fiscal year, Hawaii County generated $40.1 million in TAT and received $17.3 million back. Without the cap, the county would have received $30.7 million.

“This coming year may be a good one to initiate this discussion and move it forward,” Nakashima said. “I do see leadership changes in the Legislature … there’s going to be a lot of shuffling.”

read ... Legislative shuffling could bring more tax dollars

Facilitate more rental housing

SA: A report by the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, which advocates for poor people, lays out some solutions. Elected officials should take heed. Most of these ideas are not new, but some have foundered due to lack of funding or of political will. False starts only worsen the problem in a state where 43 percent of households are renters.

The state and county governments must work together to encourage the private construction of small, single-occupancy apartment buildings, and to make it easier to add simple dwelling units to existing single-family lots. Nearly 25 percent of Hawaii households consist of only one person, individuals<t$> <t-5>who could get along just fine in a 350-square-foot apartment, and would appreciate the cheaper monthly rent these so-called micro units fetch. Efficiency units this size are common in other expensive cities, such as Seattle, and should be more available here.

Oahu must capitalize on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the coming rail-transit system presents to forge ahead with transit-oriented development along the Kapolei-to-Ala Moana route, which is ripe not only for micro units, but also a mix of larger apartments suitable for working families. It takes an annual salary of $65,600 to comfortably rent a two-bedroom Honolulu apartment at the current fair-market rate; increasing the supply would lower the price.

The state Legislature also should increase the rental tax credit, having failed to do so last session. The credit, available to renters earning up to $30,000 a year, has languished at $50 since 1981; an increase is overdue.

read ... Facilitate more rental housing

Father of Cyrus Belt's Killer Dies in Fight Amongst Homeless

Higa was the father of Matthew Higa, who the parole board in 2010 sentenced to 200 years in prison for second-degree murder for throwing a 23-month-old child, Cyrus Belt, off an overpass into traffic on the H-1 freeway. Shelton Higa lived with his son Matthew in an upstairs apartment in the same Iolani Avenue building where Cyrus lived with his mother. Shelton Higa testified in Matthew Higa's trial that he regularly smoked Ice with his son.

According to the police affidavit, several witnesses saw Abella beat Shelton Higa on two separate occasions on July 17 in Chinatown.

After the second assault, Higa, lying on a gurney in an ambulance, also identified Abella as his assailant.

The first assault occurred about 8:45 p.m. near the Smith-Beretania Park, according to the affidavit. Higa was treated at the scene at Smith and North Pauahi streets but refused to be taken to a hospital by ambulance.

About an hour after Higa was treated, police were sent to North Pauahi and Fort streets because the suspect in Higa's assault was seen in the area. Police found Higa lying on the ground at Smith and North Pauahi streets. He told the officers that the same man who assaulted him earlier in the night had returned and punched his chest and stomach with a closed fist.

read ... About who the homeless really are

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