2015 Legislative Recap: Victories for Social and Economic Justice
From Hawaii Appleseed Center May 22, 2015
The 2015 Legislative session ended earlier this month with three of Hawaii Appleseed's top priorities being passed! The bills are now awaiting the Governor's signature, and we are excited to see the changes these important measures will bring for families working to achieve greater economic security.
Increase in food/excise tax credit (SB 555): For the past three years, Hawaii Appleseed has been leading the charge for changes to our state's tax system, where low-income households pay the second highest effective state tax rate in the country while the wealthiest earners pay half as much of their income toward state taxes. As our coalition of supporters has grown, with more people voicing their support for improved tax fairness, these efforts are now bearing fruit.
This year the legislature took a major step toward a more equitable tax system by passing Senate Bill 555 to the increase the food/excise tax credit. The credit is intended to offset the imbalance created by the General Excise Tax, the burden of which falls most heavily on low-income households who must spend a larger share of their income on basic necessities, most of which are taxed at the full GET rate. This food/excise tax credit increase will provide $6.5 million in tax relief to low and moderate-income families.
Access to Driver's Licenses (HB 1007): We helped pass a bill to create a limited purpose driver's license that does not require documentation of immigration status. This bill will increase the number of safe, licensed drivers on our roads and enable all of Hawaii's residents to get to work and care for their families.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness (HB 500): We successfully advocated for a $40 million appropriation for the Rental Housing Trust Fund and $1.5 million to continue the state's successful Housing First program for people experiencing chronic homelessness.
Thank you to our many partners, and a special thank you to PHOCUSED and Catholic Charities for their outstanding advocacy on these issues, as well as Partners in Care and the Hawaii Coalition for Immigration Reform. We're already looking forward to advancing social and economic justice in 2016!
City Council Update: Accessory Dwelling Units Moving Forward
Affordable housing is a top priority for Hawaii Appleseed, and around two years ago, we identified Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as the lowest hanging fruit for affordable housing development. Our research and advocacy on ADUs led to the introduction of a bill at the Honolulu City Council calling for elimination of barriers to ADU development on Oahu. The bill has received strong support from the community, City Council members, and the mayor's administration. With only two more hearings remaining, the bill could pass within the next few weeks, opening up ADU development and providing Oahu with a cost-efficient means to expand our affordable housing supply.