Scoop-de-Dupe: Hawaii Lawmakers Raid All Kinds of Special Funds

The 6-cent tax on all cans and bottle beverage containers sold in Hawaii is supposed to fund a mandatory state recycling program. But lawmakers raided that special fund this year for $300,000 to help balance the state budget and projected $1.3 billion budget shortfall for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

That’s not all. They drained the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund for $120 million to fund education, and they raided the Rainy Day Fund as well.

At least 21 other special funds were depleted as Hawaii lawmakers voted to “scoop” them for a total of $18,609,988. In addition, another 21.5 percent of the Tobacco Special Fund, which is supposed to fund education and health related to smoking, was diverted to the state general fund.

The fund raids ranged from $1 million from the state’s Risk Management Revolving Fund, to $500,000 for the state’s Medicaid Investigations Recovery Fund, to $2 million from the state’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Special Fund and to $1.5 million from the Compliance Resolution Fund.

There were also raids to the Environmental Management Special Fund for $750,000, the Special Unemployment Insurance Administration Fund for $1.5 million, the Community Use of School Facilities Special Fund for $1 million, the Trauma System Special Fund for $1 million, and the Captive Insurance Administrative Fund for $2.5 million.

Another fund that is supposed to offer training for the unemployed, which employers are taxed for and must pay into, also was raided for $44,000.

No area appeared to go untouched. An estimated $77,000 was drained from a Drug Demand Reduction Assessments Special Fund; $916,284 was scooped from the Healthcare Revolving Fund, $520,780 was taken from the University of Hawaii Faculty Housing fund, $21,440 was raided from the Travel Agency Education Fund, and $500,000 came out of the Stadium Special Fund.

Sen. Sam Slom, who votes against the creation of every single special fund in the state, said the legislature can drain these funds without the public noticing and create a backdoor tax and fee increase, when the public has to replenish them.

Practicing to Be a Politician

Stanley Chang

Hawaii Reporter earlier reported that Honolulu City Council Member Stanley Chang, District 4, told two neighborhood boards in his East Oahu district this month that he is opposed to the proposed tax increase to the city’s gasoline tax. The tax is set to rise by 6 cents over the next three years. Hawaii already has the highest gas taxes in the nation and the highest gas prices as well – 63 cents a gallon for federal, state and county.

The only problem with that story is Chang is one of seven council members who voted for the tax increase earlier this month. The only two council members to oppose the tax hike were Ikaika Anderson and Tom Berg.

Neighborhood board members, who are opposed to the tax, didn’t press Chang further to ask him how he actually voted – they just assumed he voted against the measure since he said he opposed it.

But now the plot thickens and there is more double speak. In Chang’s printed neighborhood board report dated April 2011, he writes: “I am concerned about the administration’s proposal to increase the fuel tax by 1 cent with a penny increase for the next three years. Although the fuel tax goes toward fixing our roads, I question raising the fuel tax when our residents are already facing record high gas prices.”

But he voted for the tax hike twice. Maybe he’s practicing to be a politician.

Last week, Chris Baron, Kuliouou Neighborhood Board member, followed up on the question last week. He is the only elected member to ask the right question and finally got Chang to admit he’d voted for the tax hike.

NFL Charities Host All Star Showdown

Due to the lack of organized sports leagues for Hawaii’s public middle school students, After-School All-Stars has committed to putting on their third All-Stars Sports Showdown. The event will take place on Saturday, May 14, 2011, 9am – 2pm at Washington Middle School, 1633 S. King Street in Honolulu.

Sponsored by NFL Charities and other local companies, this event will bring together six middle schools to compete in basketball, flag football, volleyball and soccer.

After-School All-Stars Hawaii’s participating middle schools include Dole and Kalakaua Middle Schools in Kalihi; King Intermediate in Kaneohe; Jarrett Middle School in Palolo; Washington Middle School in Honolulu; and Ewa Makai Middle School in Ewa Beach. The current trophy is held by the Dole Middle School All-Stars.

Founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1990, the programs have been designed to prepare middle school youth for high school, college, and the 21st century by offering academic support, enrichment opportunities and health/fitness activities.  After-School All-Stars serves 80,000 youth annually through after school and summer programs in 12 chapters across the country.

In addition to support from NFL Charities, other sponsors include Whole Foods, Safeway, Costco and Times Supermarket.

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards. Hawaii Reporter has a weekly television news show, News Behind the News, which airs on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.