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Thoughts on Hawaii's 2010 Ballot Measures

BY JAMIE STORY - In addition to determining who will be our next governor, on November 2nd, Hawaii residents will be asked to vote on several important ballot measures. It's worth taking a quick look at some of these initiatives.

Hawaii Tax Rebates Amendment, SB 2807 This amendment would alter the state constitution regarding taxes. According to the National Taxpayer's Union, "The Hawaii Tax Rebates Amendment on the statewide ballot would amend the Constitution to give the Legislature discretion to direct excess tax revenue into a reserve fund. Currently, the State Constitution requires excess funds to be returned to taxpayers. While a reserve fund is a worthwhile protection from economic fluctuations, the state should restructure its budget to finance it from existing revenues rather than threatening tax rebates." Essentially, if you are charged too much on your taxes, do you want some of the money back, or should the state be allowed to keep it?

Hawaii Board of Education Amendment, HB 2376 This amendment would dramatically change the state's dysfunctional public education system. The Hawaii Board of Education Amendment calls for amending the state constitution to do away with elected school boards and allow the governor to nominate, with the consent of the Senate, and appoint members of the Board of Education. A grassroots group of concerned parents, Hawaii's Children First, has been formed to support this measure.

Residents of Honolulu County will be asked to vote on some Oahu-specific charter amendments. Probably the most contentious is Question No. 1: "Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to create a semi-autonomous public transit authority responsible for the planning, construction, operation, maintenance, and expansion of the City's fixed guideway mass transit system?"

The transportation experts at Honolulutraffic.com have provided some good reasons to be skeptical of this initiative, noting that all "a 'Transit Authority' will do is insulate our elected officials from any accountability for rail in the future. It is known that elected officials need to be held accountable for the misfortunes that will overtake rail, not an appointed board of unknown, unelected, group of the usual suspects."

While electing Hawaii's new governor is probably the most high profile aspect of the upcoming election, the outcome of the various ballot measures is important as well. Take time to familiarize yourself with these issues, as they will effect the future of our island home for years to come.

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