• Follow on Facebook

  • what-to-do-media
  • RSS W2DM

  • puako-general-store
  • Cheneviere Couture
  • PKF Document Shredding
  • Arnotts Mauna Kea Tours
  • World Botanical Garden
  • Hilton Waikoloa Village
  • Hilton Luau
  • Dolphin Quest Waikoloa
  • Discount Hawaii Car Rental
  • 10% Off WikiFresh

  • Say When

    September 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Aug    
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
  • When

  • RSS Pulpconnection

  • Recent Comments

Hilo Man Steals City Bus AGAIN

Hawaiʻi Island police have arrested a 21-year-old Hilo man in connection with a stolen county bus.

Kawelo Nakamura

At 1:36 a.m., Monday morning (August 28), county employees reported that the lock on the gate to the County of Hawaiʻi Mass Transit base yard was cut and the gates were found opened. Reports received indicated that a 42-passenger bus was taken from the base yard and that may have been seen heading in the Hāmākua direction over the Wailuku Bridge on Highway 19 and later on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway near Mauna Lani.

At 6:24 a.m., police briefly pursued the bus after it was observed traveling into Hilo on Bayfront Highway, but the pursuit was discontinued in the interest of public safety. At 6:45 a.m., the bus was located behind the Walter Victor Stadium where the suspect, Kawelo Nakamura was taken into custody and transported to the Hilo cellblock while detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section continue the investigation.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any other information about it is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Todd Pataray of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2382 or Todd.Pataray@hawaiicounty.gov.

Editors note… this isn’t the first time he’s tried to steal a bus:  http://damontucker.com/2017/08/07/man-charged-in-connection-with-theft-of-county-mass-transit-bus/

Discussion of Issues Relating to Special Session on Rail Funding, By Chairman of Maui’s County Council

The Chairman for the Maui County Council, Mike White, sent me the following document entitled “Discussion of Issues Relating to Special Session on Rail Funding:”


Mike White, Chairman of Maui County Council

Both the Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) and the Hawaii Council of Mayors (HCOM) stand in support of the position to fund rail by extending the .5% GET surcharge.

  • The Proposal extends the GET surcharge for just three years to 2030.
  • The $1.3 billion raised by the TAT increase would be unnecessary if the GET was extended through 2033. The 3 additional years of surcharge would generate the same $1.3 Billion.
  • If the use of TAT fails the stress test of the Federal Transit Authority and is disqualified as a source to fund rail, will the TAT increase be reversed?

The promise to make permanent the $103 million to the Counties is questionable.

  • The Legislature’s history on keeping promises is weak. We all know that any action taken by today’s body can be reversed in any future session.
  • There was a promise that the 2% increase in TAT after the recession in 2008 would sunset after 5 years. It is not likely it will ever sunset.
  • The $103 million to the Counties still falls short in terms of the Counties being awarded their fair share.

There was hope that the recommendations of State-County Working Group would be taken seriously

  • The Counties’ share of the TAT would have been $184 million this past year if the legislature accepted the findings of the working group they established.
  • The working Group found that Counties provided 56% of visitor related expenditures from State or County general funds
  • Counties were willing to accept the lower 45% share compromise reached in the working group.
  • The Legislature has ignored the Working Group findings, maintained the cap and taken all of the increased revenue.

The State has already grown their share of the TATsignificantly.

  • TheState has increased its share of TAT from $17.1 million to $291.1 million since 2007
  • Since then the Counties share has dropped to $93 million, a loss of $7.8 million
  • The cost of Police, Fire and Parks departments in the four counties has increased by $264 million while Counties share has been reduced.
  • Without a rate increase State share will likely increase to $326 million in FY2018
  • With a 1% rate increase, State share will likely increase by another $58 million to $384 million.

Distribution to Local governments of taxes generated from Lodging Revenues

  • Nationwide, taxes on lodging have been established to cover the cost of services and infrastructure needed to support the visitors.
  • Nationwide, 67% of ALL taxes (GET & TAT) on Lodging revenue go to the local government.
  • In Hawaii, only 14% of GET & TAT generated is given to local Governments
  • The Hawaii TAT accounts for about 68% of the taxes on lodging. If we were to get the Average Local government share we would get almost all of the current TAT revenue.

Hawaii is not the only small state with large expenditures on Education and other government functions, but tax distribution is very different.

  • With similar populations to Hawaii, state expenditures on education in West Virginia and Idaho are close to Hawaii’s.
  • When Hawaii spent $1.6 billion or 23% of its General Fund (GF) on education, Idaho spent $1.6 billion (51% of GF)and West Virginia spent $1.9 billion (43% of GF) on education.
  • West Virginia has a 6% state sales tax and a 6% room tax (TAT)on lodging revenue. All proceeds from the 6% room tax go to the local government.
  • Idaho also has a 6% state sales tax and authorizes local government to impose “local option” taxes on lodging accommodations, drinks by-the-glass, retail sales, etc. The total taxes in resort areas appear to be about 12%. The state receives the 6% sales tax and the local government receives the rest.
  • This type of comparison deserves a closer look if we hope to bring a stronger sense of “partnership” to the relationship between our state and counties.

Our Legislators push the counties to increase property taxes instead of asking for more TAT.

  • Hawaii has lower property tax rates, but significantly higher home values.
  • Hawaii’s median home value is 5 times higher than West Virginia and three time higher than Idaho.
  • Even with lower rates, the average tax on the median home value is $1,430 in Hawaii vs $1,250 in Idaho and $660 in West Virginia.
  • Hawaii property taxes represent 2.1% of median household income. This compares to 2.6% in Idaho and 1.5% in West Virginia.

Neighbor Islands are again being offered the opportunity to pass the same .5% GET Surcharge for our transportation needs.

  • The concern that the neighbor islands have had for years is that once we pass the GET surcharge, the Legislature will take away ALL of our TAT revenue.
  • Some of us have been told directly over the years that this is their intension.
  • The Neighbor Islands favor keeping a visitor-generated TAT to pay for visitor–related services. It makes no sense to shift the cost of visitor services to our resident population through either GET or property taxes when the visitors have already paid their fair share.
  • The GET generated by the .5% surcharge would be just slightly higher than the amount of TAT we are currently getting.

Impact of TAT on Neighbor Islands

  • Oahu occupancy rates are 10 points ahead of Maui, 13 ahead of Kauai and nearly 20 points ahead of Big Island
  • From CY 2006 to CY 2016, Oahu GET base grew by 15% while Neighbor Islands remain below 2006 levels
  • One percent increase in TAT would remove over $30 million from our Neighbor Island communities and economies.

State should work on ensuring all TAT taxing options and compliance issues are addressed before simply increasing the rate

  • The State is not receiving a significant portion of the TAT revenue even though the visitors are paying the TAT or an equivalent.Amend TAT statute to ensure collection of taxes from accommodation remarketers instead of just operators.  Maui County has drafted a bill to correct the problem, and it will likely be part of the HSAC package. $60-80 million in added revenue.
  • Increase the basis of the calculation of TOT on Timeshares from 50% of maintenance fee to a higher percentage.
  • Work with Counties to ensure vacation rentals are operating legally and paying both State and county taxes. Maui County will be contracting with internet service that will identify location and ownership of rentals being advertised on the internet.
  • Instead of TAT, evaluate a Rhode Island-type 1% tax on food and beverages consumed at restaurants, bars and hotels. Restaurant Association estimates the Hawaii base at $4.6 billion. $46 million in added tax revenue

Tax Review Commission recommendations would increase revenues by over $300 million per year

  • Not all the recommendations are popular
  • Sugary beverage tax of $.02 per ounce – $50 million
  • Increase collection of taxes on e-commerce/online retail sales – $30-40 million

Mike White,
Maui County Council Chairman

Coast Guard Rescues 2 From Sinking Vessel Off Oahu

Two men are safe after being rescued by the Coast Guard from their sinking vessel 35 miles east of Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Friday.

The men were hoisted from their vessel by a rescue swimmer aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and were transferred safely back to the air station.

“This case is a textbook demonstration of the equipment you should have on board your vessel and how to use it correctly and effectively,” Charles Turner, command duty officer at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “Our crews remain Semper Paratus 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, ready to answer the call and bring people home safely to their families.”

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center received notification at 12:40 a.m., via VHF Channel 16 from the captain of the 82-foot pleasure craft Point Harris, stating his vessel was taking on water in the two forward water-tight compartments.

The men activated their emergency positioning indicating radio beacon and prepared to abandon ship after unsuccessfully energizing their dewatering pumps.

An HC-130 Hercules airplane aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point launched to the scene at 1:50 a.m., along with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew at 1:58 a.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ahi (WPB 87364), homeported in Honolulu also launched to assist.

The Hercules aircrew arrived on scene at 2:09 a.m. to assess the situation and provide a visual. The Dolphin helicopter aircrew arrived on scene at 2:34 a.m.

The Dolphin aircrew deployed a rescue swimmer to assess the condition of the vessel. He determined quickly that the vessel was no longer safe and made the decision to hoist the two men and bring them back to the air station.

An urgent marine information broadcast notice to mariners and a hazard to navigation was issued and the vessel owner will work with Sector Honolulu response personnel to attempt salvage of the vessel.

Weather on scene was reported to be 20 mph with east winds and seas 5 to 8 feet.

No injuries were reported.

Information for 2017 Hawaii Legislature Special Session – How to Submit Testimony

The Legislature’s webmasters have set up a webpage for information on the 2017 Special Session called for Monday, August 28th. It can be found here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/splsession.aspx?year=2017a.

This is where you’ll find links to the rail transit funding bill, “SB1 Relating to Transportation Financing”, and the notice for Monday’s 11:30 a.m. 3:00 p.m. WAM hearing (link to hearing notice). The hearing notice lists special email addresses for submitting your testimony.

Note: The hearing will be broadcast on Olelo on channel 49, will go out live to neighbor island PEG access TV channels, and can be viewed live online on the Senate webcasts page (http://olelo.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=13).

It appears that a number of nominations subject to Senate confirmation will also be considered during the Special Session, as numerous Governor’s Messages appear on the Special Session page.

Any subsequent hearing notices will also appear on the 2017 Special Session webpage.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the Public Access Room (PAR) with any questions.

President of Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce Statement on Pending Special Session on Honolulu Rail Project

Hawai‘i Island State Representatives and Senators

Re: Honolulu Area Rapid Transit system funding

Dear Representatives and Senators,

From August 28 to September 1 the Hawai‘i Legislature will be in session to assist the City and County of Honolulu with the capital for funding the Honolulu Area Rapid Transit system. We thank you for this opportunity to voice our concern and opinion in this matter.

We understand that the Legislature will be considering proposals including:

  • Maintaining the current general excise tax (“GET”) rate premium for applicable Oahu transactions through 2037.
  • Increasing the transient accommodations tax (“TAT”) rate for applicable services on Oahu.
  • Increasing the TAT rate for applicable services on all islands
  • Assessing premium GET taxes on a statewide basis.

The Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce strongly recommends funding the capital shortfall for the Honolulu Area Rapid Transit system by extending the GET for transactions in the City and County of Honolulu only. We note the following:

  • Uncomfortable as it is to point out, the shortfall is primarily the result of management decisions made by an agency of the City and County of Honolulu. Neighbor islands were not part of either the management or the process. Asking the residents and visitors of the neighbor islands to pay for this process gone awry is not reasonable. Services provided by HART will be provided only on Oahu benefitting primarily Oahu residents and not the residents of the neighbor islands. We believe any impact should be borne by the future users of HART.
  • A major argument against simply allowing the GET on Oahu to continue is that this tax is regressive. However, this argument glosses over several economic realities that businesses face every day. Taxes of any kind increase the total price paid by the buyer. Higher prices for any good or service result in some level of reduced demand – if not for that service, for other services where those dollars may have been spent:
  1. While we do not know the number of travelers who will choose not to travel to Hawaii because of a higher TAT – there is no doubt that at the margin some will choose not to come here or to delay a trip.
  2. Some of those who do come will find that they must curtail their spending while here in order to stay within their budget.

In either of these cases, the dollars spent on goods and services in Hawaii will be reduced. The ripple effect of reduced spending will be a reduction in employee hours (and jobs) absorbed almost exclusively by employees at the lowest rung on the employment ladder. In short, these employees will suffer by losing income much more dramatically than they would if the current 0.5% premium in GET taxes is maintained on Oahu.

Beyond this, there is the simple equity issue. Should we be charging those who have no vote (tourists) for services that they are not likely to use – simply because they have no vote? This is not the right decision.

  • Finally, the City and County of Honolulu – most affected by Rail – has stated firmly that its choice is to fund by extending the GET through 2037. If that is their choice, it is not clear to us why we should over reach to further manage their decision.

Sincerely,
Bill Walter, President

Cover Sheet to Pending Rail Bill to Be Voted On

Here is the cover sheet of the Senate version of the rail bill that Hawaii Legislators will be voting on during the upcoming session on the Honolulu Rail Transportation Project.

It basically calls for:

  • 3 Year General Excise (GE) surcharge extension on Oahu
  • 1% Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) Statewide (Increase hotel tax on all islands for everyone)
  • $103 million TAT to the Counties to be made permanent.

I should re-poll those that refused to answered my survey because they said they haven’t seen the bill, and ask them if they are now voting YES or NO on increasing the TAT Statewide… but I simply don’t have the time!

Representative Mark Nakashima’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Mark Nakashima

Dear Mr. Tucker:
Thank you for your recent email expressing your interest in the up-coming special session on the Issue of Honolulu’s rail system.  Please be assured that I share your concern.  As you know, the decision by the Hawaii Legislature was made before I joined the body, and I believe that questions regarding the state’s commitment to the program as well as other issues regarding the design have already been made.

The House of Representatives voted on the last day of the 2017 Regular Session on an amendment agreed to by with our Senate colleagues on an amendment that would have increased the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) by 1% for eleven years, extended the 0.5% General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge on Oahu for an additional year until 2028, restored $10 million to the county’s portion of the TAT allocation, and create a special fund for education.  Unfortunately, this agreement was not agreed to by the Senate as a whole and the bill died for lack of agreement.

One of the major rationales supported by the City and County of Honolulu for using the GET was the fact that approximately 30% of this cost was borne by visitors who paid the GET during their stay in the islands.  The TAT or hotel room tax is paid only by hotel guests while staying in a hotel room, and as such, the vast majority of this revenue would be paid by visitors with the exception of the local residents travelling inter-island and staying in a hotel.

Much has been said bout not wanting to pay for a project on another island, however I think many people miss the point that the City and County of Honolulu pays the vast majority of GET which then subsidizes the state hospitals and neighborhood schools – a system which work on a group of island where the vast differences in real property tax incomes would otherwise cause great inequities from island to island.

I regret that I will not participate in speculation on the final form of the bill to be considered the legislature until one has been written, as percentages and duration becomes meaningless until I am able to see the justification and rationale for these positions.

Finally, I will reiterate that only people who stay in hotel rooms pay the TAT.  Most residents will never pay this tax.  Everyone in Hawaii pays the GET.

Aloha and Best Wishes.

Sincerely,
Mark Nakashima
District 1


Aloha Rep. Nakashima,
Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Representative Nicole Lowen’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Nicole Lowen

Damon,
I can’t give a yes or no answer about my vote on a bill that I haven’t seen yet, but I appreciate your concern about this and I intend to keep the interests of the Big Island and of my constituents at the forefront. I will be advocating to increase the share of TAT to the counties and for a bill that is in the best interests of taxpayers in my district and across the state.

Mahalo,

Nicole Lowen

——————-

Aloha Rep. Lowen,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Representative Joy San Buenaventura’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Joy San Buenaventura

As other legislators have noted, this questionnaire is premature in that we have not been told what we will be voting on in the special session. However, it is clear that there are 3 choices (and variations of these 3 choices) facing the legislature regarding rail funding: 1. No additional taxes and have rail be built until current funding runs out. HART claims that this is not an option because the federal government will want its $1.55 billion back. 2. Extend GE taxes forever (original request) or for 10 years until 2037. This is senate’s last position. 3. Increase TAT by 1% for 10 years and GE .5% for only 1 more year and gave back $10 million in TAT to the various counties with honolulu’s entire TAT share paying only for rail. This is the House’s last position. This was originally proposed late in the 2017 session because Mayor Caldwell testified that most of GE taxes were paid for by tourists (without data supporting his assertion); and it was to ensure that tourists did indeed pay for rail like he testified.

The tourist industry has recently spun the third alternative as a neighbor island tax on rail despite the fact that those who travel & stay with friends or family will not pay TAT tax at all; and completely ignoring the fact that a GE tax increase is also a tax on neighbor islanders who buy on-line from stores like Macy’s, Best buy, Sears, Target & Walmart. For the months of April &May 2017, amazon voluntarily collected Hawaii GE taxes too at 4.5% (http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/34933913/sorry-hawaii-your-tax-free-shopping-on-amazon-is-about-to-end) and stopped after it appeared that the US Supreme Court was not going to rule on internet sales but now there are 9 members of the US Supreme Court. See: one-step-closer-to-internet sales tax. Don’t let the tourist industry fool you, a GE tax increase affects everybody, especially neighbor islanders who depend on on-line purchases, and not just Oahu.

The various counties also do not like the TAT increase option because they want the option to collect the .5% GE for its own transportation needs.

To answer your questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

It depends on whether the proposed bill gave back to the counties $10 million/year like the latest house position and decreased the GE increase from 10 years down to 1. As I stated earlier, a 10-year GE tax increase affects more neighbor island residents than a TAT increase especially where it is likely that the new 9-member US Supreme Court will rule to allow taxation of all on-line sales. I voted Yes on the house position in 2017.

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

YES – but this is unrealistic because the State Constitution requires that Hawaii County and all the other counties be given an option to increase their GE tax once we give Honolulu the extensionso it won’t be a Honolulu-only GE tax AND no one has ever testified that 6 years was sufficient. HART and all entities have testified that it is their request that the GE .5% increase extensions be forever because they don’t think it ever will be financially sustainable with just fares alone. HART’s track record of asking for a 10 year extension in 2015 and now another extension 2 years later has shown that they will keep coming back. In 2015, I voted NO on any GE tax increase specifically because I did not want to give Hawaii County an opportunity to raise GE at a time when we were just recovering from Iselle and the lava flow so if it was a statewide increase in GE taxes, like that in 2015, I would likely vote NO again because a GE tax is regressive.

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

Probably Yes but no one has given us this option and see my objections to any GE tax increase in my prior answers

Rep. Richard H. K. Onishi’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Richard H.K. Onishi

Mr. Tucker,

Thank you for your inquiry, as you know, there are many issues involved in deciding how to fund the Honolulu City & County’s rail project, including the total cost projection, funding from HC&C, Federal funding, public/private partnerships, GET funds, TAT funds, etc. Since there has been no formal proposed bill, your questions are hypothetic options and, may or may not be sufficient to fund the project and there may be combinations of funding methods. I believe that the prudent thing to do is to reserve my comments until after I have seen the proposed bill and have had a chance to ask my questions to the proposers on the details of the project cost and the amount of funding that each source would provide and its potential effect on our residents and tourist. I am also very concern that there needs to be included a method to have the HC&C more accountable for the cost and how the funds are being spent.

Mahalo,
Richard H. K. Onishi


Aloha Rep. Onishi,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Traffic Transitioning to Makai Portion of Queen Kaahumanu Highway Beginning Tomorrow

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) announces the transition of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic to the newly paved Makai section of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Two-way traffic will be shifted between Hina Lani Street and a point north of Keahole Airport Road from the existing Mauka roadway to the new Makai portion of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday, August 23, 2017. The shift in traffic is expected to be completed at approximately 6 a.m. Thursday, August 24, 2017, weather permitting.

Traffic control measures, including flaggers and police officers, will be onsite to direct traffic during the transition.

HDOT thanks the public for their patience as we continue the work on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Widening, Phase 2 and informs road users that the existing Mauka portion of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway between Keahole Airport Road and Hulikoa Drive will be closed following the traffic shift.

HDOT and all the Project Team members are committed to the completion of this project and anticipate that the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Widening, Phase 2 will be substantially complete in August 2018. The latest progress payment percentage as of July 26, 2017, was 67 percent.

For the latest information on this project, please visit http://buildqueenk.com

Senator Lorraine Inouye’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

 

Senator Lorraine Inouye

Aloha Damon,

Thank you for your email.

Although there are plans to go into Special Session, we have not gotten official word from the Leadership of both Houses, specifically, the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the House, about whether we will convene and the dates. The last week in August has been targeted but no word as of today.

Hence, there Is no draft bill to reference, however there is a federal deadline such that your questions are timely and relevant and I am happy to respond to your questions:

Question 1: Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

My answer is absolutely NO. The rail project is on O’ahu, and the initial financial plan the Legislature approved 10 years ago was to allow the City and County of Honolulu to increase the GET by ½% specifically for the purposes of building an elevated rail system.

Ten years ago, as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I was one of the Senate negotiators and I supported the original bill for a 1% increase. However, during the course of the hearings, the Oahu Senators and State House of Representatives did not support it and ended up with the final ½%. Had we stayed with the 1%, we would not be in this position today.

As my District 4 constituents know, there is now a proposal under consideration to have the neighbor islands assist with rescuing Oahu on their shortfall by using – or more accurately, absconding – some of the Transient Accommodation Tax generated by Hawaii Island hotels. I absolutely cannot support this.

I have been in my district the last several days and all of those we have spoken to, and also many emails that I’ve received are not in support of paying into the rail shortfall. I have also circulated a poll and it is resoundingly opposed to this. My constituents have shared widely differing reasons for opposing use of neighbor island-generated TAT for rail on Oahu, and I agree with many of their reasons. Bottom line: it is not fair or equitable. The people of Hawaii County are already shouldering a recent increase in taxes – both property and fuel taxes. I will support my constituents first and foremost and those outside of my district on Hawaii Island and oppose such a proposal.

Question 2: Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

My answer is YES. For the sake of my constituents, I must reiterate that this 0.5% GET Surcharge would apply only to Oahu, not the neighbor islands. I would support it but must also note that this proposed 6-year extension would not fully fund the shortfall. My preference is to support the City and County of Honolulu’s and the rail authority’s request to extend the Surcharge for an additional 10 years – to cover the shortfall – thereby not touching the Transient Accommodations Tax. I must add however, that even a 10-year GET Surcharge extension for Oahu is problematic because it would primarily be used for building the rail.
What about operational and maintenance costs going forward? They are not in the equation. This is why the County’s original request was to extend the GET Surcharge in perpetuity. Bottom line, this option, while it would address federal government funding requirements in the short term, it really amounts to kicking the can down the road for the next generation to resolve. This is sad.

Question 3: Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

My answer is YES. I have shared a recommendation to allow the City and County of Honolulu the option to raise an additional 1% with Legislative leadership. I also believe such an increase may have to go for several more years as a 2-year extension may not fully fund the shortfall.

Thank you, Damon, for helping the people of Hawaii, especially neighbor islanders, understand what’s at stake and have their voices heard.

Sincerely, Lorraine R. Inouye
Senator, District 4 (Hawai’i Island – North Hilo-Hamakua-Waimea-Kohala-Waikoloa-North Kona)

Senator Russell Ruderman’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Sen. Ruderman

Editors Note:  I only received one e-mail and got a follow-up later this afternoon.  The following post has been edited to reflect that miscommunication:

Sorry, Damon, my mistake. This was supposed to be first answer.

Questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

Answer:

I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.

If new Big Island TAT funds all go to Big Island, then I will consider it.

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES OR NO?

YES,
This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.( GE or TAT)

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES or NO

YES

This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail. ( GE or TAT)

I would support either GET extension if it funds rail w/o increasing TAT, or increasing ANY tax on outer islands.

Mahalo,
Russell

While I agree rail ought to be finished, there are two bigger concerns here for me. First, the project has been grossly mismanaged, and throwing more money at such a project without fixing the mismanagement is rarely a good idea.

Secondly here in Puna our only road in and out is the deadliest highway and the state and it’s the fastest growing district in the state. So I cannot agree to subsidizing Oahu’s project while our urgent needs go unmet.


Aloha Sen. Ruderman,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Representative Cindy Evans’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Rep. Cindy Evans

Aloha Damon,
I understand you wish to get a pulse before special session.

At this time I will pass on answering your questions. There are currently too many options available and until I see the bill, I feel the questions are unrealistic.

Best Regards,

Cindy Evans


Aloha Rep. Evans

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO

Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

71-Year-Old Dies in Two-Vehicle Traffic Casualty

A 71-year-old Kailua-Kona woman was involved in a two-vehicle traffic casualty on (August 17), on Highway 190 at the 33-mile marker in Kailua-Kona.

She has been positively identified as Bernadette Chock.

Responding to a 2:40 p.m. call, police determined that a 2009 Nissan Frontier operated by a 48-year-old Kailua-Kona man had been traveling north on Highway 190 when he crossed left of center and struck head on with a 2007 Honda CR-V being operated by Chock who was traveling south on Highway 190.

Following the collision, the 73-year-old male passenger of the Honda CR-V was taken to the Kona Community Hospital for treatment of his injuries. Ms. Chock was also transported to the Kona Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 5:52 p.m.

The 48-year-old male operator of the Nissan Frontier was also taken to the Kona Community Hospital where he currently remains for treatment of his injuries.

Police believe that inattention was a factor in the crash, and an autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

The Traffic Enforcement Unit has initiated a Negligent Homicide investigation and is asking anyone who may have witnessed the accident to contact Officer Kimo Keliipaakaua at (808) 326-4646 ext. 229.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island-wide Crime Stoppers number at (808) 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

This is the twenty-third traffic fatality this year compared to fifteen at this time last year.

Senator Kai Kahele’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Senator Kai Kahele

Aloha Damon and mahalo for your email. Although we (the Senate) have not seen a bill yet there has been speculation to what a bill may look like to help fund the Honolulu Rail Project shortfall, however I can provide a response to your questions based on the knowledge I have so far.

Question #1: Answer: NO. I do not support increasing the TAT Statewide to fund the rail project. Front loading the rail project with money from a TAT statewide increase is bad policy for the State. Leisure tourism is our number one industry and is what drives GE revenues. Raising the TAT hotel tax statewide has the potential to hurt our tourism industry. In addition, I have heard from many of my constituents in Hilo and they are opposed to raising the TAT hotel tax statewide which would make on island and off island travel for hard working Hawaiʻi Island families, youth sports teams and church groups that much more expensive when they need to stay in our island hotels. If it makes Hawaiʻi Island hotels more expensive for local families, to fund the rail project on Oahu, I cannot support that.

Questions #2: Answer: YES. I do support the extension of the GE surcharge on Oahu to fund the rail project. The GE surcharge on Oahu has been paid and collected by Oahu residents since 2007 and is set to expire in 2027. An extension of this broad based tax, which the voters of Oahu voted for seems reasonable to me. It will also not impact the neighbor islands or the tourism industry. I do support a 6 year extension of the surcharge to complete the rail project.

Questions #3: Answer: YES. If front loading the rail project to decrease total cost and interest paid was what the voters and residents of Oahu wanted than I would support that. The Hawaiʻi GE tax is inherently a regressive tax and has the potential to affect lower income individuals and families which we would need to weigh appropriately. However, if this proposal could decrease the amount of years for the GE extension, which also helps lower income families, and ends up costing less in total interest paid, the legislature should consider it. Again, I would like to see what the residents of Oahu think about this proposal, maybe an informal poll could be taken.

Continue reading

Rep. Chris Todd’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Rep. Chris Todd

Aloha Damon,
I would have to wait until I see the final version of the rail bill before committing one way or another. I know that’s not the answer you are looking for, but whatever bill we end up with may have a lot of moving parts and I don’t want to comment until I know what we’re dealing with.

I am committed to completing the rail project, and once we have a final bill I will definitely get back to you with more commentary and explain my thought process.

Mahalo for understanding!

Rep. Chris Toshiro Todd

Continue reading

Senator Josh Green’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Senator Josh Green

Thanks for asking Damon.
I need to see the actual proposals before I answer hypotheticals.

At this point the only tax I support for rail is an extension of the GET on Oahu, which I believe would need to be for 8 additional years.

Sincerely,

Josh

Aloha Sen. Green,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO

I will be posting your answers (or non answer) on my website Hawaii News and Island Information (http://damontucker.com) .

Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Commentary – City Rail Audit Won’t Look for Fraud?

Dear Damon,

This week, the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee approved a widely supported resolution to conduct an “economy and efficiency” audit of the city’s over-budget and behind-schedule rail project, but it didn’t go far enough.

That’s because, if approved by the Council as a whole, it would not be looking for fraud — this despite the fact that City Auditor Edwin Young told the committee “the red flags were there” when he was conducting his own very critical performance audit of the project just last year.

As amended, Resolution 17-199 would direct Young’s office to investigate the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s capital finances, which amount to at least $8 billion. This would be a big improvement over Young’s earlier audit, which looked only at HART’s operational finances of about $18 million annually.

During the hearing, Joe Kent, Grassroot Institute vice president of research, congratulated the committee for considering Councilmember Trevor Ozawa’s resolution to investigate the rail project, but expressed concern about its amended version.

“The proposed new language seems to suggest there is no desire to look into whether there has been any illegal activity in the rail construction process,” he said.

After Kent’s comments, Budget Committee members asked Young if any fraud had been found while he was conducting last year’s performance audit.

He responded: “We found that the internal controls were so weak that if fraud, waste or abuse were to occur, HART and (others) would not have detected it, could not prevent it, and could not have taken corrective action, if it had occurred.”

Pressed further, the city auditor said he would be willing to recommend a forensic audit seeking fraud, waste and abuse if the former HART executive director, Dan Grabauskas, were still in charge. However, the current proposed audit, which does not seek out fraud or abuse, would be sufficient for the current leadership.

But this misses the point.

The public deserves to know about fraud, whether it happened now or in the past. The only way to know for sure if Hawaii taxpayers have been getting true and honest returns for their hard-earned tax dollars is to conduct a full forensic audit of the rail project.

All the better if an entity independent of the city were hired to provide the staff and expertise to conduct such an audit — in a reliable, trustworthy and timely manner.

Such an audit likely would require separate funding; perhaps the $250,000 allocated by HART for “special audit services” would be a good place to start.

In any case, Hawaii leaders should not shy away from seeking out illegal or abusive activities in the Honolulu rail project. And only a “deep dive” forensic audit can accomplish that goal. Anything less is playacting.

E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroots Institute of Hawaii

Partial Lane Closure in Hakalau Extended to Sept. 1

Hawaii Electric Light Company announces that the partial lane closure of Highway 19 between the 16 and 17-mile markers in Hakalau has been extended to September 1.To improve system reliability, crews have been upgrading transmission and distribution facilities and equipment in the area. As the work was being done, crews found additional poles that must be replaced due to deterioration which will require more time to complete the project.

One lane will be closed to traffic from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Motorists are advised to expect delays of up to 20 minutes and encouraged to use alternate routes via Old Mamalahoa Highway, if possible.
Hawaii Electric Light regrets any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding. For questions or concerns, please call 969-6666.