Hawaii Legislature Closes with Unbalanced Budget and More Taxes

Sen. Sam Slom - Photo courtesy of Mel Ah Ching Productions
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Sen. Sam Slom - Photo courtesy of Mel Ah Ching Productions

BY SEN. SAM SLOM – The Hawaii State Legislature closed Thursday, May 5, with an unbalanced budget and more laws that take away your freedoms, increase your cost of living and make it harder to start or stay in business in the islands.


I voted “no” during the final reading process on the following bills:

HB 200: I voted against the $22 billion State Budget bill, which made only modest cuts to a few programs. Most of the cuts were to executive budget increases. During the session our Senate Minority proposed a more robust budget that would truly pare down the cost and size of government. Even with these modest costs and new funding mechanisms, the budget will end up being “unbalanced”.

HB 243: I voted against mandated sterilization of animals for pet shop dealers. Several veterinarians opposed this measure too. The bill passed the Senate but failed in the House.

HB 1493: Voted against mandated regulations on outdoor residential lighting.

SB 1520: The native Hawaiian caucus passed what the “Akaka Bill” couldn’t do with this foot in the door bill that will someday force a new government on all of us. I was the only one who voted against the Native Hawaiian Recogntion Act that sets up a roll call commission to register people of Hawaiian ancestry. This is a localized form of the federal “Akaka Bill” that will create more government bureaucracy, mandates and cost in the future.

The waning days of session found many legislators including myself attending several conference committee hearings where bills were more often deferred to the next day before a final vote was taken. As a result several key bills that raised taxes and fees ultimately died this session.

HB 945: I voted “no” on the DOE’s reduced instructional time bill which delays full instructional days for our public schools. We promised parents we would restore 180 instructional
days now.HB 423: A “no” vote went to this bill seeking issuance of $40 million in special purpose revenue bonds for Carbon Bio-Engineers, Inc., a firm with a checkered history.

SB 1328: Four senators including myself voted against the increase on vehicle registration fees.

SB 1329: I also voted against the state increase to the vehicle weight tax. County taxes may also increase.

SB 1221: I voted against this bill that requires construction procurement contracts to use 80% “local” employees. A similar measure passed last year was ruled unconstitutional.

SB 1270: I voted against the raid on the Hurricane Relief Fund. One of the main reasons I voted against the creation of a new special fund is because the legislature uses them
to balance the budget after the special fund has grown over time.

SB 570: Eliminates the personal deduction for taxpayers with income above specified thresholds. I voted against this bill because it is essentially a tax increase for those individuals who have an income above a certain level.

SB 754: This bad bill suspends general excise tax exemptions for certain persons and entities on their gross amounts. Passed out of the Senate 17 to 8. I was among the 8 senators who voted “no”. It too is a tax increase.

SB 120: Generally another “raid” bill that transfers balances of certain special funds to the general fund. Also converts some revolving funds into special funds. Diverts
part of the tobacco settlement special fund to the general fund. I voted “with reservations”.

Defeated this session were the GE Tax increase, the tax on alcohol and soft drinks, pension tax, new tobacco tax, and the streamline tax on internet purchases. In addition a ban
on plastic bags was also defeated. Updated status on all bills can be found at the capitol.hawaii.gov website.

Senate Minority Offers ‘No Alternative’ State Budget

The Hawaii State Senate Minority “No Alternative” budget was created by taking Governor Linda Lingleís projected budget which served as the base from which Governor Neil
Abercrombie, the House Finance committee, and the Senate Ways and Means committee used to create their respective draft budgets. This “No Alternative” budget was
produced through careful examination of Governor Abercrombie’s Executive Supplemental Budget worksheets, the budget worksheets available from the House Finance committee
for House Bill No. 200 H.D.1, and previous Budget Acts from two prior bienniums.

The intent of this budget is to explore methods of relieving the State from its current spending shortfalls, defining a plan that will permanently address the serious issue of
wasteful government over-expenditures, and allow an opportunity for growth of the private sector.

Unlike current budgeting options, this budget does not use tricks of delaying the payment, repayment, or rightful return of certain moneys. It does not require lawmakers to raid
special funds, even if the intent is to repay the balance in a few years. It does not require any new taxes, nor does it require lawmakers to increase current tax rates. It does
not introduce new fees for which the revenue will not be made readily transparent to the public.

Instead, the “No Alternative” budget aims to create transparency within government and foster a culture of efficient government spending while promoting an understandable
level of service.

This budget was created from the ground up. The structure was provided by our current budget system. It began its life with only the core programs. Core programs are defined as
the bare essentials needed to maintain a government that supports the average taxpayer. While many may not agree as to what the core programs are, research evidence supports
a list of services that would continue to exist in the event of a major county and/or national crisis.

The “No Alternative” budget is intended to be a sustainable plan and therefore requires additional non-core, highpriority, as well as a significant amount of non-core, lowpriority
items to be included. This budget only reflects a version of the operating budget for the State and does not include capital improvement appropriations. The main focus
of the “No Alternative” budget is on general fund spending, cuts, and savings.

At the time the “No Alternative” budget was drafted, the Senate draft of HB 200 was not available for examination online. Therefore, the data does not currently compare to
the Senate Draft. However, the numbers, as presented by the WAM Chair, differ only slightly with the House Finance’s draft. The SD1 version of HB 200 has since been made available to the public at the state Legislature’s website.

The “No Alternative” budget considers conservative measures, which may be agreeable to many. There are additional places that could be examined to find savings; however,
it would be difficult based on the public information Senate Minority Caucus Offers “No Alternative” State Budget that is available. Therefore the “No Alternative” budget
represents a fair deal that one could create without having access to any non public information.

Ultimately, the “No Alternative” budget reflects the voice of the people, and mimics spending and savings trends of the average household in Hawaiiís tight economy. Since the “No Alternative” budget is projected out for two years, it is likely that it will experience a significant decrease in overall deficit with the possibility of a surplus depending on the
nature of the economy and the pace of its recovery.

A comprehensive report in progress, will be posted to our Senate Minority Blog website at senateminority.wordpress.com.

Education Committee Votes “No” on Two U of H Regent Nominees

The State Senate Education Committee voted to not confirm two of the University of Hawaii Board of Regent nominees in a hearing held April 25. The two not getting
a confirmation vote are Patrick Naughton, a former U.S. Army Lieutenant and member of the Hilo Chamber of Commerce and Sandra Scarr, a business woman from the
Big Island of Hawaii. Their confirmation vote was still expected to go before a vote in the full senate, but the Governor withdrew their nominations. I voted “WR” on the motion to not confirm the nominees.

Attorney Coralie Matayoshi, who is also CEO of the American Red Cross, Saedene Ota, owner of Sae Design on Maui and Jan Sullivan, CEO at Oceanit, an engineering, technology
and science company in Honolulu were confirmed before the full senate.

David M. Louie was confirmed on Tuesday, May 3 as the State’s new Attorney General by the full senate.

The following individuals were confirmed as new District Court Judges: Edmund D. Acoba, 5th Circuit; Dean E. Ochiai, First Circuit; Lanson K. Kupau, First Circuit; Melanie Mito May, First Circuit; and Catherine H. Remigio to the District Family Court, First Circuit. District court judges are nominated by the Chief Justice of the Hawaii State Supreme Court, Mark Recktenwald. All of the judicial appointees passed out of the Senate with unanimous 25 to 0 votes.

Marijuana Bill Goes Up in Smoke, County TAT Tax Raided, And Council Gas Tax Hikes Move Forward

  • Marijuana was a big loser at this year’s legislature. Ten bills which would have lessoned the restrictions or reduced the penalties on marijuana all died this year as well as a proposed marijuana “compassion center”.
  • The State Legislature voted to cap the counties’ share of the TAT revenues this year. Expect higher property taxes and city fees in the future.
  • A special joint Senate House session was held on April 29 in the House chamber. Japanese Counsel General Yoshihiko Kamo addressed legislators on the progress in and aftermath of the March 11 earthquake in Japan.
  • A city report has “dropped” the price of rail from $5.5 billion to $5.3 billion. Federal funds used to finance The Bus have apparently been removed from the rail proposal. A major lawsuit is pending.
  • The Honolulu City Council is proposing a gas tax increase.
  • PRESS CONFERENCE: One of the new things we did this session was to hold regular minority caucus press conferences. Our most recent (7th) was held yesterday in which I reviewed the accomplishments and failures of the session. Every press conference has been videotaped and an archive of those tapes are online at https://senateminority.wordpress.com. You can also check my YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/samslom. I will be updating our websites throughout the interim.