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Saturday, April 2, 2011
April 2, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:17 AM :: 14094 Views

GOP Files Ethics complaint over Nestor Garcia’s $60K side job 

Abercrombie names DBEDT Deputy Director 


HB1049: Raid on Hurricane Fund to Trigger 7.5% Tax on Premiums?

Panos: Wind Study doesn't answer questions about Cost

Abercrombie names new UH Regents, E-W Center Board members 

Friday Night Surprise: GET Hike Back on Table

Hawaii lawmakers slid a temporary GET hike into an existing House Bill Friday night.

A Senate draft version of House Bill 793 seeks to "increase the ... general excise and use tax rates and various public service company tax rates by one percent" from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2013.

The GET, the number one source of revenue for the state of Hawaii, is assessed on gross income, gross receipts, or gross proceeds of all business activities. In Honolulu, the GET is 4.5 percent. In the rest of the state, the tax is 4 percent. This year, GET collections make up 57 percent of the state's $4.38 billion general fund.

HB 793 also would temporarily suspend GET exemptions "for certain persons and certain amounts of gross income or proceeds" between Jan. 1, 2012 and June 30, 2015 and instead "require the payment of the tax at a graduated rate."

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Maui News: Abercrombie is “pathetic excuse for leadership” we need Linda Lingle

Governor, it is past time for you to step to the plate. Either you favor massive tax increases (including a general excise tax hike), or you want what we feel are needed massive cuts in state spending. You promised a "New Day in Hawaii."

You cannot dodge it any longer. You cannot ask the Legislature to make the decisions for you. What cuts, what tax increases do you favor? And cut out the baloney that you'll be more specific in the next fiscal year.

My God, where is a leader with Linda Lingle's fortitude when we need it? So far all we have from Neil Abercrombie is government ducking the tough decisions and asking others (the Legislature) to make them for him.

What a pathetic excuse for leadership.

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Legislators prepare to gut 180 day law

Hawaii is backtracking on its most meaningful education reform to come out of a budget-induced school closure crisis: a law that required more daily class time and a standard 180-day school year.

Government money shortages are causing legislators to delay until 2014 the pledge of a full school year, according to legislation nearing approval.

The additional school time was supposed to start next year in the nation's only statewide school system, which consistently ranks near the bottom in math and reading scores compared to the rest of the country.

HNN: Outgoing BOE member offers advice to new board

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Rail Funds: Oahu Taxpayers $623M, Congress $34M

In fact, just $623 million, a fraction of the $1.6 billion in contracts already awarded by the city, has been collected from Oahu taxpayers.

As Panos Prevedourous, University of Hawaii environmental engineering professor and rail foe, points out, Hawaii has received just $34 million from Congress.

In addition, U.S. Senate Appropriations Chair, Daniel Inouye, D-HI, has pledged to secure more than $1 billion in federal rail funds, but with the city requesting $1.855 billion at a time when the new Republican House leadership is slating huge cuts for transit projects across the country and freezing projects not already underway, that funding may dissolve, Prevedouros said.

“We are fooling around with very large numbers and the only concrete money from the mainland comes up to $34 million. There are a lot of fat numbers and fat contracts, but all these years with Hannemann and Inouye pushing for money, that is all they’ve come up with. And that does not bode well for the future of this rail system, especially since that money was essentially pork. … The big priority of congress is to maintain rail we have,” Prevedouros said

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Bombardier wants the city to disclose more information about Ansaldo’s Winning Rail proposal

Ansaldo’s overall contract value was $1.4 billion, while Bombardier’s was about $1.2 billion and Sumi­tomo’s was $1.45 billion. A Sumi­tomo executive said earlier this week the company intents to file a protest.

Andrew Robbins, Bombardier’s Hawaii proj­ect manager, said publicly available copies of Ansaldo Hono­lulu’s winning proposal contain more redactions by the city than proposals submitted by his company and by Sumi­tomo Corp. of America.

Ansaldo’s operation and maintenance dollar amounts were visible, but text indicating how the company broke down its costs were blacked out. Bombardier is asking the city to either release the information or provide the same level of information it disclosed for the other bidders. Bombardier’s proposal outlines operations and maintenance costs in an annual breakdown through 2029….

Robbins argued his company offered the best overall value. But Ansaldo Hono­lulu offered the lowest price — $574 million — to design and build the train cars. That part of the contract is part of the proj­ect’s $5.5 billion capital costs, expected to be paid through the general excise tax surcharge and federal funds.

“I think we just got pushed aside because they (city officials) really wanted that low design-build price,” Robbins said. “Because that’s what’s important to the feds.”

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Molokai expels Wind Farm, Maui could be next Victim

In light of a missed March 18 deadline to secure land for developing a 200-megawatt wind farm on Molokai, Boston-based First Wind is now hoping to develop the wind farm on Maui, according to First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne, in a statement to PBN.

Lamontagne said it was premature to speculate on how big of a wind farm could go on Maui.

The originally proposed Molokai wind farm is part of a larger wind project designed to bring 200 megawatts of wind energy from Molokai and 200 megawatts of wind energy from Lanai to Oahu. It’s commonly referred to as the “Big Wind” project.

A First Wind representative told PBN on Thursday that given the failed negotiations on Molokai, it was the company’s understanding that in accordance with the agreement between First Wind and Hawaiian Electric Co., no other company was permitted to come in and develop the wind farm on Molokai. In the past, HECO officials have told PBN that if the Molokai project fell through then Lanai could receive all 400 megawatts of wind energy.

(So why are we building a $1B Cable to Molokai????)

Nicholas told PBN that Molokai Ranch had chosen a new wind company, San Francisco-based Pattern Energy, as its preferred developer if the “Big Wind” project were to go forward on Molokai. Pattern Energy representatives held community meetings on Molokai in March.

RELATED:   Hawaii Wind Developer tied to Largest-ever asset seizure by anti-Mafia police

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Carlisle says labor savings may have to go beyond 5 percent

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said Friday labor savings for city workers may have to go above the 5 percent he proposed earlier this month while unveiling his proposed budget.

"I don't think five percent is a figure that I'd be looking at,” said the mayor while speaking to Khon2.

The mayor stated rapidly changing economic conditions meant the city would require greater pay cuts to the city's workforce of 10,000 people.

CB: Honolulu City Council Plans "Significant Cuts" to Mayor's Budget

SA: Trim recycling subsidies

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Secret labor Agreement: Hawaii commerce department to end furlough days

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs says its employees won't take off on the five remaining furlough days scheduled for the rest of the fiscal year.

The department said Friday the decision reflects an agreement reached between the state and the Hawaii Government Employees' Association allowing furloughs to be discontinued for positions completely paid for by special funds.

The department says special funds cover all of its positions.

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Tax Sweeps of Vendors Begin Again

State tax agents inspected general excise tax licenses and monitored cash transactions at 119 businesses in Chinatown and on Fort Street Mall yesterday for the first time since a clampdown on so-called “cash-only” businesses went awry in Kailua last year.

Yesterday’s visit resulted in warnings to 24 vendors — a dramatic change from the fines, police presence and political fallout that came after the last operation by the Tax Department’s fledgling Special Enforcement Section at the Kailua Open Market on Oct. 28.

On Oahu the special agents investigated storefronts, vendors and mom-and-pop businesses in Ewa Beach, in Chinatown, on Fort Street Mall and at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. They also probed flower growers in Mililani and farmers markets in urban Hono­­lulu.

Even though they had issued 88 citations totaling about $36,000 in fines, the Special Enforcement Section operated relatively quietly until a chaotic scene broke out at the Kailua Open Market, when shoppers yelled at two tax agents and police were called after special agents began requesting GET licenses, receipts and sales rec­ords.

Two vendors were fined, and a shopper was fined $2,000 for allegedly telling vendors not to provide information to the agents.

In the fallout, the 36th annual Mayor’s Craft and Country Fair was abruptly canceled and holiday crafters, nonprofit groups and even the Girl Scouts suddenly scrambled to research Hawaii tax law.

Yesterday’s visit to Chinatown and Fort Street Mall was intended as a way to regroup after the agents’ experience in Kailua, said Ronald Randall, who was in charge of the Tax Department’s compliance division until yesterday.

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Obamacare Preview: Penalties for those with health risks considered in 2009 by Hawaii’s public employee health plan

According to Richard Borreca, writing in the former Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Cajoling workers to stay or become healthy has not worked. Radcliffe points to a program for the 110 people with diabetes in the state Commerce and Consumers Affairs Department.

“Bottom line is after a massive effort, over more than a year’s time, there were three people in the program,” says Radcliffe, noting that chronic diseases such as diabetes are the biggest part of increased health care costs.

So, he reasons, if you can make it financially unpleasant (charge them more) for people who smoke, don’t lose weight, don’t exercise, or drink too much, you will save tons of money. “Persistent failure to take better care of one’s own health would mean that employees would be responsible for much of the cost of their own premiums,” Radcliffe told his fellow trustees.

The proposal was eventually shelved after a legal opinion by the Attorney General’s office….

NYT Obamacare preview pt 2: As states cut Medicaid, more lose access to specialists 

Radcliffe: Gaming Industry Lobbyist, Progressive activist screen Abercrombie cabinet picks

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One week after Dengue Fever, Mosquito Control becomes excuse for Tax Hikes

Said one DoH official, “Dengue is really slowing us down, that’s why it took so long to use it as an excuse for tax increases.  The slowness is one of the symptoms which means we should have even larger tax hikes.”

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VIDEO: Prison or Youth ChalleNGe? The future fate of Kulani

Yesterday we showed you some scenes of cadet life- early in the morning – here at Kulani.

These grounds are now home to the Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Academy, helping ask risk teens to meet the challenge of academics, in this remote, militant learning ground on the slopes of Mauna Loa.

The location was once a prison, home to the Kulani Correctional Facility that was closed abruptly by the outgoing Linda Lingle administration in order to save money.

But now lawmakers, like District 2 State Senator Gil Kahele, are looking into reinstating the prison at this location.

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Brewbaker resists jumping to conclusions about Japan Tsunami

Council economists, including Carl Bonham and Paul Brewbaker, presented their own statistical models to help assess the current situation and to predict the future revenue collections.  Brewbaker’s predictions were more optimistic whereas Bonham’s estimates were around -4%.  Bonham questioned the validity of Brewbaker’s economic model and the assumptions being used to distort the values in the model.  They could not agree on the impact of the oil price increases, the effects of the war in the Middle East and North Africa, and the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, so they agreed to disagree.  The council ultimately came to the conclusion that it’s too early to predict the effects of these worldly events, so a forecast on the optimistic side would probably be best.

Brewbaker also asked fellow members for evidence of the impact of the Japan earthquake and tsunami on Hawaii, but their report was based on media stories rather than data based on community surveys.

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Airport parking rates to increase statewide

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) advises air travelers of new parking rates at Hawaii airports statewide effective on Sunday, May 1.

Daily parking rates will increase at the Honolulu International Airport by $2, from $13 to $15 per day, and at neighbor-island airports by $1, from $9 to $10 per day.

Revenues generated will help to offset capital costs of airport improvements under the New Day Work Project.

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Office of Information Practices Director Selected

Honolulu – Governor Neil Abercrombie today appointed Cheryl Kakazu Park as the Director of the Office of Information Practices.  A 1981 graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law, Ms. Park was a partner at the Honolulu law firm of Watanabe, Ing, & Kawashima before moving to Europe in 1992 and to Nevada in 1995.  In addition to her legal experience, Ms. Park applied her Masters of Business Administration from the University of Hawai'i Manoa to work in the business world with American Express Financial Advisors and Wells Fargo Insurance.  Ms. Park was a staff attorney at the Nevada Supreme Court since 2003, and has returned to the islands where she was born and raised.

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Bankruptcies average 297 per month, down from 330

Bankruptcy filings in Hawaii continued to stabilize in March, but the volume of cases remained relatively high by historical standards, according to data released yesterday by U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

There were 358 cases filed last month compared with 357 in March 2010, the court reported. For the first three months of the year, bankruptcy filings have averaged 297 per month, down from an average of 330 per month in 2010.

Financial hardship fueled by the recession caused bankruptcy filings to increase steadily in recent years after averaging just 80 cases per month in 2006.

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Canadian Hawaii Real Estate Fraud to face trial

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) has issued a notice of hearing against Jeanette Cleone Couch, Shire International Real Estate Investments Ltd., and Bearspaw at 144th Avenue Ltd. alleging fraud related to real estate investment in Hawaii.

ASC staff also allege that Couch, Shire, Bearspaw and Hawaii Fund made false and misleading statements to investors in offering memorandums filed with the ASC, and falsely certified that the offering memorandums did not contain a misrepresentation.

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US task force arrests 61 fugitives on Maui

A U.S. Marshals task force arrested 61 fugitives and cleared 74 outstanding warrants during a week-long warrants sweep this week on Maui.

Those arrested were wanted for various crimes including drug, sex and other violent crime offenses. The task force was also involved in last week’s arrest of former Maui police officer Lewis Gamble on charges of sexual assault, impersonating a law enforcement officer, false reporting and kidnapping. He was released on $250,000 bail, the marshals service said.

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Ariz. law bans abortions based on race or gender

When it comes to protecting the vulnerable and disadvantaged, the pro-life community shines. In Arizona, for instance, a new law now bans discriminatory abortions — the first of its kind in the nation. That means medical professionals performing abortions based on gender or racial preference will be criminally liable. As Planned Parenthood persists in targeting Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, this is a great step toward protecting minorities and holding the abortion industry accountable.

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