House GOP to Governor: Freeze Government Spending

Hawaii House Republicans, who make up 8 of 51 seats, sent Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, a letter on March 21, asking him to take immediate measures to “curtail state spending.”

They noted that Gov. Linda Lingle, R-HI, who was in office from 2002 to 2010, cut state spending in 2009 when confronted with a budget gap.

To balance the budget during challenging fiscal times, they note Lingle froze most state hiring, put a stop to state travel and told her department heads to refrain from non-essential equipment purchases and supplies.

Urging Abercrombie to do the same, House GOP also recommended Abercrombie delay his proposed budget increases, which would bring the state’s two year operating budget to $23 billion.

“These are actions you take as Chief Executive of the state without legislative approval. Further they are prudent actions that a CEO would consider in most businesses when anticipating a drop in revenues,” the House GOP wrote.

See their lettertoGovAbercrombie

Today, the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which is reviewing the House’s proposed budget, grilled Abercrombie’s budget and finance director, Kalbert Young, on the governor’s budget plans, his proposed tax hikes and his plan to grow government even further during a fiscal crisis.

The state faces additional revenue challenges because of the impact of the tsunami on tourism and the unrest in the middle east, which is impacting oil prices, Young said. He noted that state departments are being asked to freeze spending and cut their budgets this year by 10 percent.

But Young also said Abercrombie is looking for ways to keep government programs and services operating at least at a “minimum” by restoring cuts made by the Lingle administration.

He said the Abercrombie administration continues to work on a short term plan to turn the economy around and boost the state coffers, and that in the long term, the state would increase jobs and revenue through $1.3 billion in construction and the city’s $5.5 billion rail project not yet under construction.

To keep government in operation through the end of the fiscal year, no special fund raid or tax is off the table.

Young said the Hurricane Relief Fund, the Rainy Day fund and several other special funds would be “swept” as an emergency measure to keep the government in operation through the end of this fiscal year.

He said an increase to the state’s General Excise Tax, which impacts transactions at every level of goods and service, is also a possible solution to cover the estimated $1.3 billion shortfall that continues to grow larger as the state’s economic news worsens.

Both House GOP members, and the Senate’s only Republican, Sam Slom, continue to push the governor and Democrat majority for more cuts in spending and no tax hikes, saying that like all families and small business owners who are forced to cut back in difficult times, government must do the same.

 

See http://www.hawaiireporter.com/house-gop-to-governor-freeze-government-spending/123

 

 

Democrats support gambling instead of school supplies for children

Today Democrat members of two House Committees voted to gut a bill that would have helped parents buy school supplies for their children and inserted language to legalize gambling in Hawaii.

SB 755, which started as a proposal by Senator Carol Fukunaga to help school-age children, was completely rewritten behind closed doors.  Further, the bill was allowed to pass without the standard 48 hour notice to give the public time to comment on this measure.

“You are gambling with the credibility of this committee,” Rep Cynthia Thielen of Kailua pointed out.  “There are many members of the public who oppose gambling and they were not given an opportunity to speak out on a measure that will completely change our State.”

“This bill sends a mixed message to the public,” Rep. Barbara Marumoto of Kaimuki, Waialae and Kahala noted.  “The State says no gambling, but this type of gambling is okay.  I can’t support this, especially when the State wants 20% of the cut.” she added.

The House Draft of SB 755 would license peer-to-peer gambling in the form of poker tournaments. It would authorize two licensees to conduct these gambling games for a fee of $100 million plus 20% of the wagers.  The bill would also set up a Gaming Commission.

“They say this is not gambling but in the bill itself the house gets to take 20% of the winnings,” former police captain Rep. George Fontaine of Kihei, Maui explained.  “Why would anyone pay $100 million to have their computer servers here in Hawaii when they can have them in the Bahamas for a lot cheaper and not have to deal with our bureaucracy?”

The House Republican Caucus noted that gambling has not solved the budget problems of other states on the mainland.  Gaming also comes with a host of other social problems that should not be encouraged in Hawaii.

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.

Pension tax bill unfairly burdens seniors By Rep. Barbara Marumoto

Abercrombie’s budget proposal calls for a variety of new and increased tax hikes that will cost taxpayers approximately
$279 million per year. For now, let’s put aside Abercrombie’s campaign promise that he would not raise
taxes. Let’s instead focus our attention on how these taxes will affect seniors.
Seniors, like the rest of the population, will be affected by the repeal of the state income tax deduction. But, more
important for retirees, Abercrombie’s plan also paints a target specifically on senior citizens by eliminating the
income tax exemption on their pensions.
Abercrombie wants to tax pensions starting with anyone with an adjusted gross income of $37,500 or higher. According to his projections,
his plan will raise $112.3 million per year. This is a 40 percent share of his $279 million annual tax hike, taken from the
pensions of the 43,520 seniors who are retired in Hawaii. That is an astounding average of $2,580 per retiree!
Despite the governor’s proposal, the House recently passed House Bill 1092 over to the Senate with thresholds that start at $100,000.
The House’s thresholds are substantially higher than the governor’s. But be forewarned, the thresholds can still be lowered as the bill
moves through session. As the proposal stands now, there would be only a $17.1 million gain to the general fund.
AARP fears that the $100,000 threshold can easily move down, if not this year, then in future years. One representative even said it
on the floor of the House, and it’s been in the testimony from the Department of Taxation and the Department of Budget and Finance
— a lower threshold is the ultimate goal.
Whatever the threshold ends up being, it will be a hit aimed directly at Hawaii’s seniors, the people who have planned their whole
lives for their retirements.
Abercrombie says that these increases are necessary so that we can fund government operations at the level people expect them to be.
But what about expectations our seniors had when they retired from their jobs?
These retirees expected that their pensions would not be taxed and did not budget for the kinds of cost-of-living increases they now
face.
It is unfair for the government to change the rules when these retirees have little means to change their plans. Little do they realize
that there will be less funds for Medicaid and Medicare in the near future.
I understand that the state has a big deficit to close and that everyone has to make sacrifices. But, the government needs to make sacrifices,
too. It doesn’t need the governor to propose $728.6 million in spending increases in the face of a huge deficit crisis.
The administration has not spent enough time evaluating ways to cut costs, streamline activities or support new industries that could
be generating revenues as we speak. Instead, this administration has placed over a third of the burden exclusively on the backs of
seniors, many of whom are least able to absorb or adapt to it.
This is unreasonable and disrespectful.  And the governor’s proposal to tax pensioners with incomes as low as $37,500 is almost cruel.

Star Advertiser March 15, 2011

Rep. Marumoto Addresses Covenants

HB 1431 HD 1, Relating to Covenants passed the House on March 8.  It would allow counties to enforce covenants that run with the land.  The counties could insure that standards are maintained relating to land use, property maintenance, landscaping and setbacks .  Counties can also establish penalties for violations.

Though HB 1431 has statewide application, Rep. Barbara Marumoto believes it would be useful in maintaining the attractiveness of the Kahala area of the 19th House District.  In the past 6 years, a Japanese billionaire purchased over 2 dozen properties and has allowed many of them to remain vacant and neglected.  He has knocked down walls and filled swimming pools with the rubble.  He has attempted to build an illegal seawall as well as demolishing several multi-million homes.  Many of his activities have been performed without the requisite county permits.  If brought to his attention, he has acquired permits after-the- fact.

“Long time residents are beside themselves with the rundown condition of Kahala Avenue.  They are also upset with the announcement that this owner is thinking about establishing a museum in their neighborhood.  The zoning does not lend itself to a museum, but can be constructed with a variance.  HB 1431 will help residents keep the area a single family neighborhood – attractive and liveable,” said Rep. Marumoto.

REPRESENTATIVE KYMBERLY PINE DEMANDS STATE OF EMERGENCY AFTER HECO LEAVES RESIDENTS WITHOUT POWER

Representative Kymberly Pine has asked Governor Abercrombie to declare a State of Emergency to restore power to Ewa Beach residents affected by the strike of Hawaiian Electric Company’s IBEW Local Union 1260.

 

“It is unacceptable for union members to put their pay before the safety of my community.  Many people in Ewa Beach are already out of work and for them to walk off in a state of crisis is egregious,” said Rep. Pine.

 

She continued, “This is like emergency workers walking off the job during a hurricane.”  But unlike a hurricane which gives warning to residents to prepare, the union made a choice to hurt people for personal gain.  This is a manmade disaster by choice.”

 

Rep Johanson visits Moanalua Elementary School

The second-graders in Miss Wong’s Moanalua Elementary School class were in for a treat on March 1st— a State Representative visited!  Moanalua Elementary Alum Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson returned to share with his former third-grade teacher and students about the important role education has played in his life.

They were already very well-informed about the basics of government coming into the talk and remained engaged throughout the Representative’s visit.  Rep. Johanson was impressed with the fact that they all “knew what perseverance was,” and felt it was a “coming home…back to fair Moanalua” for him.

Over the hour he spent with the children, Rep. Johanson talked about how with education, practice and persistence is necessary in order to get the most out of school.  Whether the students wanted to be doctors, astronauts, or paleontologists, the skills and knowledge gained in elementary school are vital in creating a foundation to achieving their goals.

DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO STOP RAIDS OF HIGHWAY FUNDDEMOCRATS REFUSE TO STOP RAIDS OF HIGHWAY FUND

Today the eight members of the House Republican Caucus called upon their legislative colleagues to stop future raids of the highway fund that have resulted in Hawaii having some of the worst roads in the United States. Democrats in the House refused to commit to the people of the State that they would protect the State Highway Fund from future raids.

The House passed bills that would increase the vehicle registration tax by 80%, double the vehicle weight tax, and keep in place a surcharge on rental cars.

House Republicans proposed amendments to three bills (HB1101, HB1102, and HB1097) that would assure the money raised from increasing the vehicle weight, car registration, and rental car charges would be deposited only into the Highway fund and be used only to repair and maintain our roads. All amendments did not pass the House.

“These three bills will take a total of  $68.6 million from the pockets of the drivers of our State,” stated Rep. Kymberly Marcos Pine of Ewa Beach.  “Yet the Democrats in the State Legislature are not willing to tell the people of Hawaii that they will not take these funds from highway needs and spend them for something else.”

“The people of Hawaii elect us to be truthful with them,” Rep. George Fontaine of Kihei stated. “When we pass tax increases but are not willing to commit to using these funds for their intended purpose we are not being honest with those who use our roads and highways.”

“The Legislature took $144 million from the State Highway Fund in prior years,” noted Rep. Gene Ward of Hawaii Kai.  “This is the reason why we have potholes, dilapidated bridges, unsafe guardrails, and deteriorating pavement.  That is why we Republicans are committed to saying if we increase your highway taxes, we will use the money for highways—pure and simple.”

Democrats claim they have to raise these taxes because the Highway fund is depleted.

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.