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Sunday, April 19, 2009
April 19, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:33 AM :: 6833 Views

Tax Increases: Hawaii lawmakers attack tourism, productive people

Under agreements reached last night, state income taxes would rise on individuals who earn $150,000 or more a year, heads of households who make $225,000 or more a year, and couples filing jointly who earn $300,000 or more a year. (We pause to note that a state bureaucrat cruising through one of his 'top three' will be making just under $150K.  Of course this is purely coincidental.) After two years, lawmakers would raise the standard deduction, which would provide a break for taxpayers who do not itemize on their tax returns.

The higher income taxes would provide the state with about $48 million in additional revenue each year. (Taken from the State's most productive people and given to bureaucrats.)

"We're not asking them to pay a lot more. We're just asking (SIC) them to pay a little more," said state Rep. Pono Chong, D-49th (Maunawili, Olomana, Enchanted Lake), one of the negotiators.

Smith said an income-tax increase could be difficult on small-business owners who count their business income as personal income. She also said higher-income taxpayers may reduce the amount they give to charity or the arts if they have to pay more in income taxes.

Lawmakers agreed to raise the hotel-room tax — known as the transient accommodations tax — by 1 percentage point in July and another 1 percentage point in July 2010. The higher rate would remain through 2015. The higher hotel-room taxes, which would bring the rate from 7.25 percent to 9.25 percent, would generate about $30 million extra for the state in the first year and then $60 million in the second and following years.

Although popularly known as a hotel-room tax, the tax is applied to operators of hotel rooms, apartments, condominiums, beach houses and other places rented to visitors. The assumption is that operators will pass the tax increase on to their guests.  "We don't think it's going to prevent anyone from visiting us," Oshiro said.  (One more straw for the camel's back.  Even though tourism is way down, Oshiro is sure this won't be the one.  Now he's got to run to see his boyfriend.)

Marsha Wienert, the state's tourism liaison, said many hotels are offering room discounts and other promotions to attract visitors during the recession. The steep decline in tourism over the past year is one of the significant factors in the state's economic downturn and the health of the industry is crucial to economic recovery.

"It's counterproductive," Wienert said. "Now is not the time to increase taxes on our visitors. Now is the time to understand where our revenue is generated from, and to do everything that we can to keep those visitors coming."

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Lawmakers: TAT proposal won’t make it (County tax increases coming?)

Reps. Mele Carroll, Joe Bertram and McKelvey voted against the hotel tax proposal. Some of the Maui County Senate and House lawmakers who voted "yes" said they only did so in order to be on the conference committee that negotiates the final biennium budget bill for the governor's signature by the end of the session May 7. Legislators who vote against a bill aren't included in conference committee discussions.

"I think there are enough no votes to kill it on the House side, but we'll see what happens in conference," McKelvey said.

Lawmakers have proffered a few alternatives to the hotel tax diversion. Those include adding a county-by-county transient accommodations surcharge of 5 percent, or creating a 1 percent retail sales tax for counties. Another proposal to raise the entire TAT by an undetermined percentage and distribute the excess to the counties, was expected to be discussed in conference committee Saturday afternoon.

The retail sales tax could raise $39 million for Maui County, said Sen. J. Kalani English, D-Upcountry, East Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe. 

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Hawaii's largest retailers may be required to redeem containers

State lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a plan (HB 574) that would require retailers with interior space of more than 75,000 square feet, such as Costco, to become redemption centers.  The measure is headed for a House-Senate conference committee and must be passed before the scheduled May 7 adjournment of this year's Legislature before it can be sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for her consideration.

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Outdoor Circle opposes transit blight

In the end we are left with the conclusion that in its nearly 100-year history, The Outdoor Circle knows of no other proposal that holds the potential to degrade the landscape of Oahu and change the character of our communities as greatly as the Honolulu transit project. We believe it will be the most visually disruptive project in the history of Hawaii. While its ability to ease traffic problems on Oahu is debatable, its negative impact on the visual environment is not even denied in the project's own environmental impact statement.

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Molokai Ranch: A year after closure, times are hard but spirit is alive

"We're unsure right now of its immediate future, but Molokai is very resilient," said state Sen. J. Kalani English, whose district includes Molokai. "And the island can go through quite a bit and still have a fully functioning society. That's what they have. They are survivors."

Extended families have closed ranks, so that, while a couple family members work to bring in a steady paycheck, the rest may supplement the group's diet with traditional fishing, hunting, gardening, gathering and sharing, English said. It's subsistence living. It's the Molokai way, he said.  (After competing gangs of Socialists drove Molokai Ranch out of business, folks are going back to subsistence existence and J Kalani Powder Nose English is so very proud.)

"So maybe this may be a difficult time for Molokai, but they have more options than Hawaii's urban areas have," English said.

(But don't worry, if you criticize what the OHA gang and its offshoot the Ritte gang have done to Molokai--you are a racist.  Even if Powder Nose can't quite remember what you said that was racist.)

"My friendships with many of the wonderful people of Molokai are deep and enduring, hence my aloha for them, but not for the handful of malcontents that are destroying many good lives on Molokai," Hemmings wrote in a recent opinion piece.

English, a Democrat of Hawaiian heritage, said Hemmings wrote the op-ed after he put his foot in his mouth.  (But not the spoon up the nose.)

English said the two got into a heated exchange after the Kailua senator used negative stereotypes to describe Native Hawaiians on Molokai during a recent hearing at the Legislature. English, who later said he was too upset to remember exactly what Hemmings said, wrote his own op-ed piece critical of Hemmings, and in an interview last week, called Hemmings' comments "classic bigotry." 

In his op-ed, Hemmings replied to English by saying that Molokai deserves "honest help" because almost one-third of the population receives state financial and food assistance, 59 percent of children are born "out of wedlock," (Ooooo, can't say that, eh!) and the unemployment rate is so high.

But English said that the percentages don't tell the true story on Molokai, which has its own unique set of socioeconomic circumstances and history to Hawaii.

(I thought those statistics were one of the key arguments for the existence of OHA.  Now it is racism to mention them?  Good.  This means OHA is an anti-Hawaiian racist organization and must be abolished immediately!) 

(Meanwhile an Adult speaks up....) Currently, Lingle is working to convince Molokai Properties and First Wind to come to some sort of compromise to at least lease the land for a massive wind farm that would supply clean, renewable energy to the island and Oahu.  "It's a ghost town over there," Hirose said of the former company town of Maunaloa. "There are weeds growing everywhere, and I hear from my friends that people are moving away."

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69 old burials dug up in construction for Kawaiaha'o's $17.5M center--project halted

there are concerns that the construction work may have encroached onto the burial plots of Hawaiian ali'i, including those of Queen Kapi'olani's family. Abigail Kawananakoa, Kapi'olani's great-grandniece and an heiress to the Campbell Estate fortune, said her attorneys plan to seek an injunction against the church and called on Kawaiaha'o's leadership to step down.

1820: The Rev. Hiram Bingham established Kawaiaha'o Church in a two-room, thatched cottage.

1842: The current Kawaiaha'o Church was built.

1940: Kawaiaha'o built Likeke Hall. The 117 remains removed during construction were relocated to Nuuanu Cemetery or Kamo'ili'ili Cemetery in Mo'ili'ili.

1968: To make way for construction of the Contessa apartments in Mo'ili'ili, Kawaiaha'o Church disinterred the remains of 466 people at Kamo'ili'ili Cemetery and reburied them at other O'ahu cemeteries, including Kawaiaha'o's cemetery.

1971: Descendants of people buried at Kamo'ili'ili Cemetery sued Kawaiaha'o Church for mental distress caused by the disinterment. A Circuit Court judge awarded them $10,000 later that year. (And so it begins)

2008: Likeke Hall and an administrative building were demolished (ooops!) to make way for the $17.5 million multipurpose center.

February 2009: Ground was broken for the new center.

March 2009: Construction was halted after 69 remains were found at the site. (And here it ends?)

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