Archive for February, 2011

Rep. Ward Exposes New “Job Killer” Legislation

February 28, 2011

Despite Hawaii’s struggling economy, the Majority Party in the State Legislature is considering bills that would hurt small businesses that create jobs in our State.

Today the House Finance Committee heard bills that would tell a business how much it can pay its executives, prohibit a deduction of business travel expenses, impose fees on repeat visitor accommodations, tax creative entrepreneurs who write music or movies, tax their death benefits when a key employee dies; and reverse the state’s long standing position of encouraging investment in high technology firms.

“These bills (HB798, HB806, HB805, HB809, HB976, and HB1092) violate the basic goals of the House Republican Caucus, most notably creating an economic environment to help local businesses thrive, create jobs, and attract international investments,” said Representative Gene Ward, House Republican Leader.

“At a time when our residents need jobs and businesses are just beginning to crawl out of the economic hole of the past two years, to impose punitive new taxes and fees on the job creators of our state is short sighted and wrong,” Ward noted. “Traveling to the mainland is a dire necessity for Hawaii’s small businesses. For the State to declare out-of-state travel is not a legitimate deductible business expense is deplorable. I understand the State is strapped for cash, but we should not slow down the economic engine that generates tax revenues by putting more obstacles in the way.”

The proposals would inject the state into the operations of local companies at an unprecedented level, including telling a firm the maximum amount of pay they can give an employee, despite the work they perform. Several proposals would also attempt to tax non-existent transactions, such as imposing a transient accommodation tax when someone allows a person to use their rental unit or a hotel room at no charge. Additionally, HB 805 would reverse the State’s long-standing policy of supporting high technology companies by repealing the income tax exemption for income derived from stock options issued by qualified high technology businesses.

“I am troubled that the State is attempting to interject itself into the micro-management of individual businesses and will discourage creative entrepreneurs, musicians, songwriters, film makers, and high tech engineers and scientists who enrich our culture and improve our lives,” Ward stated.

REP. WARD SPEAKS OUT AGAINST BILL THAT WOULD CREATE A GOVERNMENT BANK

February 25, 2011

A bill being considered by the Hawaii State Legislature could potentially put taxpayer funds in jeopardy and could hurt local banks in Hawaii.

HB 853 would create a State run Bank, diverting millions of tax revenues from our local banking institutions and hurting their ability to loan funds into the community.

“This State run bank would be governed by persons without a banking background including Governor Abercrombie and the State Director of Labor. I cannot see how Governor Abercrombie, who would be designated as Chairman of the Bank, and three of his political appointees could operate this bank while also managing the entire State, ” noted Rep. Gene Ward, House Republican Leader.

“It is likely this bank would not meet the basic standards of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). There are no protections in the bill should the bank fail, and it is unclear who would make decisions about which people or organizations could get loans from this bank,” Ward added. “Experience in foreign countries has shown that government owned banks could be subject to political pressures not in the best interests of the residents of the state and which could put taxpayers’ funds at risk.”

The House Finance Committee considered the bill late Thursday night and received testimony from the Hawaii Bankers Association unanimously opposing this measure. The State Acting Financial Institutions Commissioner also raised concerns about this proposal and suggested a study be undertaken before this idea is seriously considered.

Under questioning from members, the State Budget and Finance Director noted that his agency already serves as the Treasury for State funds and uses all major banks in the State who have the expertise and collateral support to protect and invest state tax dollars.

“The current system of using local banks to diversify our investments and pay interest to the State has worked for decades. We cannot afford to gamble with state funds, particularly during this period of fragile economic recovery and we need to protect every dollar the state has,” Ward pointed out.

Townhall Meeting with host Representative Gene Ward part 1

February 25, 2011

Townhall Meeting with host Representative Gene War, Ph.D. Hawaii Kai with John Sosa principal of Kaiser, Rob Anderson of Save Hawaii Kai schools and Kamilonui farmer Judy Nii

Townhall Meeting Hawaii Kai with Senator Sam Slom Part 2

February 25, 2011

Part 2. Townhall meeting Hawaii Kai with Senator Sam Slom. February 2011

HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO FIGHT PENSION TAX

February 24, 2011

Following a fiery debate in yesterday’s joint budget briefing, the House Republican caucus reiterated their opposition to Governor Abercrombie’s contentious pension tax proposal.

“We, the House Republican caucus, have drawn a line in the sand on this issue. If the numbers, Governor Abercrombie has presented are correct, he balancing his budget on the backs of our kupuna, and we are committed to standing with the public to make sure this doesn’t happen,” said Rep. Gene Ward, House Republican Leader.

According to Abercrombie’s proposal, the pension tax is expected to raise $112.3 million in revenues per fiscal year. At the yesterday’s briefing, Ward asked Abercrombie how many citizens will be taxed by this measure. Abercrombie said the tax would hit 43,520 pensioners. The math says $112.3 million spread amongst 43,520 senior citizens amounts to $2,580.42 per person. Of course, the actual payment per person will be more or less depending on income.

“It is unfair to our retired kupuna who depend on a fixed monthly income. We cannot change the rules when it is too late for these folks to adjust their financial planning,” said Rep. Gil Riviere, a Republican freshman member of the House Finance Committee.

The argument was put forth that this tax will only impact those with high pension incomes. However, Rep. Barbara Marumoto, Minority Policy Leader, took issue with that claim at yesterday’s briefing with Abercrombie.

“I find that the level at which you start taxing pensions is extremely low, $37,500 for an individual,” Marumoto said. “When you start taxing pensions at such a low level, it’s almost cruel.”

While Marumoto’s comment drew animosity from the Governor who claimed she was incorrect, reports later cited confirmation from the Director of Budget and finance that the tax will affect those with an adjusted gross income above $37,500.

“The Governor says everyone has to paddle the canoe. These people have paddled, and we believe that they have earned the right to take a break. Our caucus is prepared to fight for that right and to stand up for our senior population, who have contributed their whole lives to the betterment of our state,” said Ward.

The House Republican Caucus is Minority Leader Gene Ward, Minority Floor Leader Kymberly Marcos Pine, Minority Policy Leader Barbara C. Marumoto, Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Thielen, Assistant Floor Leader Corinne W.L. Ching and Minority Whips, Representatives George Fontaine, Aaron Ling Johanson, and Gil Riviere.

HOUSE REPUBLICAN MEMBERS SAY FOCUS ON SAFE ROADS NOW

February 23, 2011

Our government is proposing to spend over $5.5 billion to build a new rail transit system. Yet our State and City cannot even maintain our basic roads and highways.

“I believe the government has a basic duty to maintain safe and navigable streets,” stated Rep. Gene Ward. “Yet our streets are filled with potholes and poor patches that damage our cars, and make it more difficult for emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and fire trucks, to reach their destinations quickly.”
The State Department of Transportation recently announced they had only about $20 million in funds available this year to repair roads. Maintaining the same road conditions requires closer to $100 million each year and this does not even begin to tackle the backlog of highway and bridge repairs that are waiting to be done.

“Some Windward Oahu potholes are the size of huge bird baths. Motorists need to swerve to avoid them, which can cause unsafe situations,” Rep. Cynthia Thielen noted.

“What is particularly tragic is at least $145 million was raided from the State Highway fund by Democrat legislators,” Rep. Kymberly Pine pointed out. “This means we were unable to build and repair the roads we needed even though drivers had paid more than their fair share of vehicle and gasoline taxes.”

“I am concerned that Governor Abercrombie and his Dept of Transportation are now considering raising gasoline and vehicle weight taxes without assuring us the money will be dedicated to taking care of our roads,” Rep. Gene Ward, a member of the House Finance Committee explained.

The City and County of Honolulu has not been maintaining its roads, yet the Mayor wants to spend $5.5 billion on a new rail transit system. An estimated $1.55 billion would come from the Federal Government, which is already heavily in debt.

Last week the Federal Transit Administration issued a statement that the City still must prepare and issue a budget to demonstrate how they will fund the rail system.

“I am calling on the Mayor and Governor to ask their transportation departments to immediately fix our potholes on our roadways before we launch into a multi-billion dollar rail system. Our caucus will immediately initiate Operation Pothole to make fixes and encourage citizens to join the Pothole Posse,” proposed Ward.

“With the Asia-Pacific Economic Commission (APEC) coming to our State in eight months, including the heads of an estimated 20 major countries, the State and City should start today to meet the goal of filling 10,000 potholes. This will benefit our citizens and make our city presentable for this major international event,” Ward stated.

Operation Pothole is an initiative being launched by several members of the House Republican Caucus. Citizens are encouraged to become part of the Pothole Posse by calling 768-7777 the Honolulu Pothole Hotline or 536-7852 the Hawaii Pothole Patrol Hotline to report pothole locations and road repair problems in their neighborhood. These reports will be channeled directly to the City and State transportation departments. Complaints will be monitored to ensure they are addressed on a prompt basis.

The House Republican Caucus is Minority Leader Gene Ward, Minority Floor Leader Kymberly Marcos Pine, Minority Policy Leader Barbara C. Marumoto, Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Thielen, Assistant Floor Leader Corinne W.L. Ching and Minority Whips, Representatives George Fontaine, Aaron Ling Johanson, and Gil Riviere.

Rep. Marumoto questions Gov Abercrombie about pension tax

February 23, 2011

Excerpt from Capitol TV Feb 22, 2011

Representative Barbara Marumoto questions Gov Abercrombie about pension tax

HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER GENE WARD ON THE ABERCROMBIE ADMINISTRATION BUDGET

February 23, 2011

“The budget released today by the Abercrombie Administration is two months late and multi-million dollars short. The Abercrombie budget adds $500 million total spending on top of the estimated $700-$844 million budget gap.

The Governor’s proposal will require Hawai’i citizens, particularly our seniors to fork over more than $100 million, at a time when their families are struggling to make ends meet. In total his budget will increase taxes by over half a billion dollars in the next two years. He proposes these tax increases at the worst possible time when our economic recovery is still fragile.

We tend to forget that this governor is faced with a relatively small budget deficit when compared to the Lingle-Aiona Administration which had to close almost a $3 billion budget gap without increasing taxes on the public. The Abercrombie Administration is not making hard choices and continues to blame an administration that fared very well when compared to the other states on the mainland during the global economic crisis.”

The House Republican Caucus is Minority Leader Gene Ward, Minority Floor Leader Kymberly Marcos Pine, Minority Policy Leader Barbara C. Marumoto, Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Thielen, Assistant Floor Leader Corinne W.L. Ching and Minority Whips, Representatives George Fontaine, Aaron Ling Johanson, and Gil Riviere.

The Dangers of All-Terrain Vehicles By Representative Barbara Marumoto

February 18, 2011

Do you know there are three sizes of all-terrain vehicles: large, medium and small? The smallest designed for children as young as six years old!
According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, 16 million Americans ride ATVs (all terrain vehicles). With rapidly increasing sales and popularity of off-road vehicles and increased usage come even greater dangers to drivers and riders. Of especial concern is the ever-present risk of injury to minors.
The Hawaii Legislature is considering HB18 which defines ATVs, and provides “no minor [under 18 years of age] shall operate, ride, or be otherwise propelled on an all-terrain vehicle.” The bill was heard by the House Transportation Committee and will move to the House Judiciary Committee for further hearing. But don’t get me wrong. I think ATVs are a fun, recreational opportunity for residents, and tourists, alike, and they are helpful vehicles on farms and ranches.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has sounded an alarm about ATV dangers, particularly among children under 16 years of age. Other national and local medical organizations have also raised concerns about children’s safety. Hawaii still doesn’t have any laws regarding the use and safety of operating, riding, or being propelled on all-terrain vehicles.
Every year, tens of thousands of kids are severely injured or killed in ATV accidents, some are infants! This year’s campaign for the national Concerned Families for ATV Safety is targeted to parents of adolescent ATV operators. Because the adult ATVs are heavy (up to 800 pounds), roll over easily, and really aren’t meant to carry passengers: children and young adolescents shouldn’t be on them. They lack the experience, training and judgment to handle the vehicles. The American Academy of Pediatrics has adopted formal policies recommending that children under 16 not drive ATVs. They also maintain that automobile driver’s license or some additional certification on ATV use should be required, as the skill and judgment needed to operate an automobile is similar to handling and ATV.
The Hawaii record is shameful. Recently, a 16-year-old girl was killed while driving an ATV on the Big Islan. Her 11-year-old sister escaped with minor injuries. Another passenger, a four-year-old sister, was in critical condition and flown to Queens Hospital. In January this year, a man was killed when he drove off a bridge and was pinned under the ATV in a stream. More Hawaii statistics: From 1991 to 2009, there were 16 fatalities related to ATV use. There was only one death prior to 2001, but at least one death each year since. Four of the victims were 17 years or younger, including two drivers, one passenger and one of unknown status.
Non-fatal injuries to ATV riders have also been increasing. According to the Queen’s Trauma Registry, non-fatal injures went from 2-5 injuries per year from 1998 to 2002 to 11-18 injuries per year from 2003-2008. About one-third (31%) of the patients were under the age of 18, and most (75%) of these minor-aged patients were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
EMS personnel attended to 152 injured ATV riders from September 2006 through August 2008, including 39 (26%) who were under 18 years of age. Only 41% of the riders were wearing a helmet at the time of injury, and this proportion was lower (32%) among the minor-aged riders.
Nationally, from 1999 to 2001, there were 698 reported fatalities to youth ages 1-19 years from off-road vehicle crashes, says the CPSC. Off-road vehicles include ATVs, snowmobiles, and hovercraft. Central nervous system injuries accounted for 80 percent of fatalities in ATV-related crashes. Helmets may reduce risk of death by 42%.

Forty-one states allow use of ATVs on Public Lands, and of these Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, Wyoming are the only states and the District of Columbia that do not have any form of Safety Laws pertaining to ATVs.
ATV accidents have the highest risk of hospitalization of 33 sports and activities in which children routinely participate, according to the CPSC (Consumer Protection Safety Commission). The risk of serious injury associated with driving ATVs is 61% greater than the next highest risk sport: football. Voluntary standards agreed to by the industry have not worked. Smaller, “youth” marketed off-road vehicles continue to be targeted to adolescents. The problems of operating them will only grow, as more young people ride them.
ATV ridership is growing in the State of Hawaii. Technically, people are not allowed to drive ATV’s on roads as there is no ATV license, the vehicles are not registered and do not have safety checks, and no one pays weight fees on them, all of which are required to operate a vehicle on public roads. But they are everywhere–off-road, on public and private lands.
Regulating ATV use in Hawaii to safeguard minors will reduce risks and dangerous, injuries and deaths. I urge the State, Counties and individuals to support the movement to protect our children.

Aloha, North Shore! by Rep. Gil Riviere

February 17, 2011

The Legislature is starting to hit full speed and bills are moving quickly now. Amazingly, the session is about one-third complete, so the window of time to pass legislation, both bad and good, is getting smaller. It will be very interesting to participate in the Finance Committee hearings as we balance the budget with a massive deficit of approximately $850 million.

I have heard clearly from many of you that taxing pension income is a terrible idea. I agree. It is patently unfair to change the rules after our pensioners have retired and no longer have an opportunity to alter their financial plans.

Of course, the pension tax plan is but one of many that are being considered to close the budget gap. The list of fee increases, taxes on soda and alcohol, delays of tax credits and transfers from special funds is long. Hold on to your wallets, it is going to be a bumpy ride!

If there is a silver lining in this financial challenge, it is that we have an opportunity – the responsibility, really – to get our state’s financial house in order. Just like we do as individuals with our family finances, the state must live within its means. We are just going to have to make do with the $10 billion state budget without compounding the high cost of living we residents already endure.

Moving on to other news, I am pleased to report that three bills I am involved with all passed out of their first committees. These include: stipulating that a Blank vote on constitutional measures shall not count as a No; declaration of October as Farm to School Month in Hawaii; a pilot project to clean up Lake Wilson water for agricultural use.

Congratulations to Fran Corcoran, the 2011 Hawaii Librarian of the Year! Under Fran’s energetic direction, Kahuku Library is the only library in Hawaii that continuously provides a community event and presentation every Tuesday evening. Through her leadership, Kahuku Library provides regular service throughout the district with a bookmobile. Please remember to thank Fran and the other great librarians throughout our district for the great service they provide our communities.

Remember that you are always welcome to visit us in Room 319 at the Capitol, we encourage you to share your thoughts with a phone call to 586-6380, and you can get more district information at GilRiviere.Info.