Archive for January 2010

Tax Watch: 1% increase in GET and other tax increases proposed

January 31, 2010

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Mauanlani Heights, Wilhemina Rise, Kaimuki) has proposed a 1% increase in the Hawaii general excise tax (to 5% or 5.5% on Oahu) [HB 2876], a 0.5% increase on wholesale manufacturing (to 1%) [HB 2880], and a 3.85% increase on insurance commissions (to 4%) [HB 2881], as well as a repeal of tax exemptions for nonprofits [HB 2878]. Say estimates that the GET increase will generate $488 million in additional revenues for the state, and the tax in nonprofits would generate $422 million by 2011 (Say what!” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1/31/10).

The proposed tax increases will harm everyone – consumers, businesses, and the economy:

  • The tax increases will raise the cost of consumer goods.
  • The tax increases will encourage more government spending, instead of cost-cutting.
  • The tax increases will penalize nonprofits and prevent them from helping people in need.
  • The tax increases will hurt lower-income families most.

We need less government spending, not higher taxes!

Please contact your representatives by mail, email, or phone, and tell them that we can’t afford more taxes. We need to watch all the legislators who support these tax increases and vote them out of office.

Contact your representatives in the House and Senate.

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Special elections should be paid for by politicians

January 26, 2010

A special election to fill Congressman Neil Abercrombie’s post will cost $925,000 by mail or $1.2 million via polling places, according to Scott Nago, Hawaii’s interim chief elections officer (“May 1 is earliest Hawaii could hold special election for Abercrombie’s seat,” Honolulu Advertiser 1/4/10).

But why should Hawaii taxpayers pay for Rep. Abercrombie’s ambition?

Let’s change the law so that an elected public official who resigns to campaign for another elected office must pay all or part of a special election to fill their position. They could use campaign donations, party contributions, or their own salary.

Remember, this would not affect elected officials who resign due to health or family concerns. Just the ones put their ego ahead of the people they were elected to represent.

Should politicians take responsibility for the costs and effort of a pecial election? Can’t we find a better use for $1 million?

Tax Watch: 5-cent surcharge on bottles

January 20, 2010

Rep. John Mizuno (D, Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter) is proposing a 5-cent surcharge on beverage containers for 3-years to raise money for public schools. The Honolulu Advertiser estimates that a 5-cent surcharge could generate about $44.8 million per year and cover at least 8 furlough days (“Bottle fee could cut furloughs,” Honolulu Advertiser 1/20/10).

I haven’t made up my mind about this one, but here are a few things to consider:

  • Once the Legislature taxes something, they’ll keep on taxing it.
  • Lower-income families will be affected most.
  • Can they guarantee that the money will be spent on public schools?
  • How much will it cost to re-program cash registers and redesign tax forms?
  • On the plus side, it would discourage kids from drinking soda.

Family co-ops for homeless families

January 19, 2010

I don’t think we can ever solve the “problem” of the homeless. There are always people who choose this lifestyle or who refuse or are unable to abide by shelter regulations. And because we are an island with limited land and resources, Hawaii will always be an expensive place to live.

But the majority of the homeless don’t want to be homeless and do everything they can to improve their situation.

To help homeless families, we could create Kuleana Family Living Co-ops. Short for “cooperative”, a co-op is operated by its members for their mutual benefit, like a credit union.

A co-op could work something like this:

  1. The City could work with non-profit organizations to purchase vacant land or re-zone small parcels of agricultural/conservation land for camping, ideally near an existing bus line. The funding would come from existing programs and non-profits for the homeless; no new appropriations!
  2. Homeless families would live in their tents; possibly, the City or a non-profit could provide trailers.
  3. A restroom facility with showers would be built and overhead lighting installed.
  4. Each family would be responsible for grounds maintenance and agree to a code of behavior.
  5. Each family would pay a small weekly fee to help cover utilities.
  6. Each family would help to grow their own fruits and vegetables in a community garden.
  7. Each family would vote for three individuals who would be their representatives to the DLNR, HUD, IHS, or other agency (just don’t create a brand new agency!). The Co-op representatives would present a weekly report, settle any disputes, and ensure that each family keeps the grounds clean, secure, and drug-free.
  8. Each able adult would be required to have a job or look for a job to remain in the Co-Op.

A Family Living Co-op has several benefits:

  • Families would have responsibility for maintaining their living conditions. In shelters, everything is provided for them, from a janitor cleaning the restrooms to volunteers preparing and serving their meals.
  • Families would have healthy food to eat. How much of food stamps is spent on junk food?
  • Children would have a safer environment until their families can move into permanent housing.
  • Children would learn about agriculture and sustainability.
  • Families could keep their pets with them.

Are there any charities or non-profits who think something like this could work? If you have experience with homeless shelters or farming co-ops, could you give us a reality-check?

And if you think it’s a terrible idea, what do you think could work?

I sent this suggestion to the Honolulu City Council in December 2009. So far, Councilmember Ann Kobayashi is the only one who responded.  She seemed interested and asked for more details, but this is all I have. What more can we propose?

Tax Watch: higher taxes proposed for homes over $600,000

January 14, 2010

Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D, Waipahu-Ewa), House Housing Chairwoman, wants to increase the conveyance tax on homes priced more than $600,000 to help the homeless. “I’m going to tax those expensive-priced homes… That would be spent for the chronic homeless” (“Tax on pricy homes eyed to fund affordable housing,” Star-Bulletin, 1/14/10).

This proposed tax is unaffordable and won’t solve the “problem” of the homeless.

  • The average sales price for a single-family home was $684,341 in 2009, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors – well over Rep. Cabanilla’s “expensive-priced” designation.
  • The higher tax would make it harder for families to afford a home.
  • Hard-working, responsible home-buyers would be punished.
  • There would still be homeless people who don’t want to get help, as state comptroller Russ Saito stated.

We need to watch any legislators who support this proposal and vote them out of office.

Giving students a voice – and a vote

January 12, 2010

In teacher contract negotiations, everyone is represented. Teachers have the President of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA); the school administration has the Superintendent of the Department of Education (DOE) and the Chairman of the Board of Education (BOE); the State of Hawaii has the governor.

But who represents the students?

We need to give students a voice and a vote in employment contract negotiations. We need an elected student advocate (maybe an actual high school student) who will put the needs of the students first.

Why not ask look for a student advocate who is enrolled in a public Hawaii high school or charter school, between the ages of 16 and 19? Someone who is passionate about school. Someone who is not afraid to remind people that the contracts are really about the students.

I don’t know if we could find a passionate, fearless advocate. I don’t know how we could run a student election across the state. Maybe it could be done through KidsVotingHawaii.org. I don’t know how we could pay for it. Maybe we need a student council instead, or an appointed advocate.

But I do know that right now students are powerless. When the State wants to save money and the teachers want better salaries and benefits, the students are caught in the middle.

Do you think that students deserve to be part of contract negotiations? How can we give students more control over their education?

“The 5,000 Year Leap” by W. Cleon Skousen

January 9, 2010

The 5000 Year Leap

Glenn Beck absolutely raved about W. Cleon Skousen’s “The 5,000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World” (1981), so I borrowed it from the public library. It gave me renewed confidence in the U.S. Constitution, the reasoning behind our Republic, and the intentions of our Founding Fathers.

The Introduction alone shows you a different way of thinking about politics. It’s not about political parties, but a balance between the common good and individual liberty. Skousen tears down the political framework of “Left” and “Right”, “Liberal” and “Conservative” and replaces it with a different political spectrum: “Tyranny” (government domination) and “Anarchy” (lawlessness).

From Skousen, I learned that three questions need to be answered for all legislation: Will it solve the problem? Can we afford it? And is it constitutional?

By reading and analyzing the letters, biographies, and speeches of the American founders, as well as the great thinkers who inspired them, Skousen compiles 28 principles that created America and established a delicate balance between the tyranny of government and the freedom of the people.

Here are five of the Founders’ principles that we seem to have forgotten:

Principle #7: The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things. It’s up to each of us to work hard and succeed – or fail.

Principle #13: A Constitution should protect the people from the human frailties of their rulers. Distrust of power doesn’t mean disrespect for leaders. We must question our leaders, or they will lead us into tyranny. 

Principle #19: Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to government, all others being retained by the people. Does anyone remember the Tenth Amendment?

Principle #21: Strong local self-government is the keystone to preserving human freedom. The federal government has turned the States into welfare states!

Principle #27: The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest. We are enslaving future generations to our $12 trillion national debt!

Skousen’s writing is clear and understandable, with short sections and well-explained ideas. He refrains from overly-criticizing government, and generally lets readers make their own conclusions about modern politics and our legal system.

We need to learn more about the Constitution, so that we can all be watchdogs. It starts in our schools, but we can all read the Constitution and use it to evaluate the government’s policies. Have they usurped powers reserved to the States or the People? Does government even have the power to do some of the things it is doing?

If you’re ready to stand up for our Constitution and hold our elected leaders accountable. Start by reading “The 5,000 Year Leap” and visiting the National Center for Constitutional Studies, http://www.nccs.net.