SENATORS POSTPONE DECISION ON 1 PERCENT GENERAL EXCISE TAX HIKE

More than 1,220 people sent testimony into the Hawaii State Capitol this week, largely in protest over the Hawaii State Senate’s plans to hike the state’s General Excise Tax by 25 percent and remove tax exemptions for some Hawaii businesses.

Hawaii, which has among the highest overall tax burdens in the nation, is the only state with a General Excise Gross Income tax that taxes consumers at every transaction for every level of goods and services.

Senators, the majority who are in support of the tax hike and tax exemption removal as a means to close a $1.3 billion budget gap, heard testimony from more than 100 people between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The vast majority of the people who showed up to share their concerns were small business owners and taxpayers who opposed the measure.

Social service providers and union organizers supported the increase, saying social service programs funded by government and government workers had already cut back to the core to the point where it is impacting services for the needy and for the public.

In the end of the hearing, Senators put off decision making until Thursday.

OBAMA’S FRIEND ARRESTED IN ESCORT STING

North Shore resident Bobby Titcomb, 49, who spends time with President Barack Obama when he is in the islands, was arrested last night on a solicitation charge after he was caught up in a Honolulu Police Department escort sting.

The Honolulu Police issued this statement: “At 9:40 pm on April 4, a 49-year old male from Waialua was arrested for prostitution in Downtown Honolulu.  The male was released at 11 pm after posting $500 bail.  The male was one of four males arrested in a reverse prostitution operation by Honolulu police.”

The Punahou School classmate of Obama was arrested on the corner of Pohukaina and South streets in the Kakaako district for the misdemeanor charge. He will be arraigned May 2.

Titcomb had the Obama family to his home over the holiday season and was filmed playing golf with the President. He and the president also have dinner together. They played football together at Punahou School. Titcomb has been quoted in numerous publications about Obama’s past.

STAR WITNESS IN KAUAI TRIAL REVISITS FIREMAN WHO SAVED HIS LIFE

Joshua Linares, who most recently was the star witness in a liability case involving two women who fell to their deaths on a Kauai hiking trail after they followed a state sign that misdirected them to an unsafe area, returned to Kauai to testify in the case.

When he was 16 years old, in June 29, 2006, Linares, who was hiking on the same trail with six family members, fell 200 feet down the cliff. The state never closed the trail or put warning signs up in the area. The two women, who were cousins, fell to their deaths in that spot five months later.

Kauai attorney Teresa Tico, who represented the family of Gonzalez, found Linares on Facebook. See Jim Dooley’s story here.

When Linares returned to Kauai recently for the 9-day non-jury trial, he made sure to pay a visit to the fireman who saved his life that day and to thank him again.

ECONOMICS 101 WITH ISLAND INSURANCE

An estimated 150 Hawaii high school students will participate in the 2011 Island Insurance Companies Economics Challenge on April 11. Organizers say it is “designed to showcase outstanding high school economics students and economics courses in Hawaii.”

The winners will hold the title of Hawaii’s Economics Challenge State Champion. Iolani High School is usually king in this competition – the private school, which has an economic club, won the national title in the Economics Challenge national competition in New York City over the past four years.

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