Watching and reporting about Hawaii from Washington Place to Washington, D.C.

5 p.m. Governor Signs Pension Reform Bill, Vehicle Registration Hikes

The governor has signed 13 more bills into law, including the pension reform measure that will scale back benefits for new government employees.

The new rules, which kick in next summer, mean new hires will have to work longer to earn retirement benefits, chip in more toward their plans and receive smaller pensions compared to existing employees

The measure is expected to save $440 million over the first five years, chipping away at the $9 billion unfunded liability facing the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System.

He also signed off on:

  • SB 1328, which increases the motor vehicle registration fee from $25 to $45, and deposits a portion into the general fund.
  • HB 960, which establishes a program for granting low-income housing tax credit loans in lieu of housing tax credits. There is already $7 million appropriated for this in the state budget.
  • HB 1020, which revises the boundaries of the Aloha Tower complex and places the Aloha Tower Development Corporation under the Department of Transportation.

Nanea Kalani

1:05 p.m. Akaka Bill(s)

Dan Akaka has his name attached to three new pieces of legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate:

• The College Literacy In Finance and Economics Act (College LIFE Act) to provide financial literacy counseling to university-level students who take out federal educational loans.

• The Interagency Personnel Rotation Act, which, according to a press release, “would promote the rotation of certain homeland and national security employees to continue the important work of breaking down government stovepipes and eliminating communications roadblocks”

• The Native Culture, Language and Access for Success in Schools (Native CLASS) Act, which contains “a comprehensive set of provisions that address language and culture-based education, local control and parental involvement, and teacher training and development.” Dan Inouye is a co-sponsor.

12:12 p.m. Governor Signs State Budget

Neil Abercrombie has signed House Bill 200 — the state budget — into law.

It appropriates funds for the operating and capital improvement budget of the executive branch for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. HB 200 also contains a $50 million “fiscal constraints” reduction for each of those two years that must be allocated statewide.

Hawaii taxpayers are now on the hook for about $600 million in new tax revenue to help pay for the two-year budget.

Lawmakers approved five key tax bills — including eliminating GET exemptions and capping the counties’ TAT revenue — that, combined with cuts to state departments, labor savings and raiding of special funds, will balance the state’s budget. The budget calls for spending $11 billion in fiscal 2012 and $10.9 billion the following year.

In a press release, the administration noted that budget passed by the Legislature “is less than the Governor’s request by $133 million for FY 2012 and $251 million for FY 2013. The Governor asked his Administration to identify programs, services, and/or activities for possible elimination.”

Here’s Abercrombie’s statement:

July 1st begins the new fiscal year with a mission to change the direction of Hawaii.

The budget passed by the legislature requires our Administration to operate with hundreds of millions less than we believed necessary to restore core government functions.  Despite tax increases passed by the legislature, services and programs will still have to be significantly cut.

I have asked all departments to work together in a deliberate and thoughtful process that will identify programs that may be affected. In recent weeks, our administration began discontinuing financial support of programs that are valuable but can no longer be sustained, such as Vanpool Hawaii and the State Pharmacy Assistance Program. These cuts and others that follow will be difficult but the financial constraints we face allow for no other course of action.

This in no way alters our commitment to our three-part plan to get Hawaii moving forward by creating good jobs; transforming government and providing taxpayers with the best value for their dollar; and investing in our priorities and future.  

—Nanea Kalani contributed to this report.

11:37 a.m. Deficit-Debt Talks Collapse

In case you haven’t heard already, those major talks involving Dan Inouye concerning the debt and deficit have fallen apart.

Three stories worth a quick look:

Biden debt meeting cancelled after Cantor quits negotiations
Senator Kyl Drops Out of the Debt Talks, Leaving Zero Republicans at the Table
Lawmakers grumble over lack of info on secret Biden debt-limit negotiations

10:35 a.m. Inouye, Akaka Votes on Policy ‘Czar’

The Hill reports that the U.S. Senate today killed an amendment offered by David Vitter that would have ended the ability of the White House to appoint policy “czars,” and prohibited the use of federal funds for the salaries and expenses of czars already appointed.

The vote was 47-51, but the amendment needed 60 votes to pass.

Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye were among the 51 opposing the amendment.

Gov, LG at ‘Community Conversation’

It begins at 6 p.m. tonight at the Washington Middle School cafeteria.

According to a press release, “The event will feature performances by area students, Q&A with the Governor, and brief presentations from administration officials concerning our efforts to improve the economy, address homelessness, and build confidence in our public schools.”

Social Media Revolution at Grand Wailea

The Hawaii State Association of Counties has scheduled a panel talk on social media and open government this afternoon at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui.

Georgette Deemer says, “The panel discussion will be moderated by Lincoln Ashida, County of Hawaii, and participants include NEENZ Faleafine, who spearheaded the social media project for the Abercrombie campaign for Governor; Francis Choe, Hawaii Senate; Nikki Love, Common Cause Hawaii; Cheryl Kakazu Park, Office of Information Practices; and myself. Prior to the panel discussion, Peter Kai from Kaiscapes will be giving an overview presentation on the social media revolution.”

Neighbor Isle Gov’t News

The Maui News reports that George Ariyoshi warns that local governments “should be wary” of depending too much on federal dollars to pay for community services:

Ariyoshi, noted as a frugal governor during his 1974-1986 terms, had to balance budgets during the first-ever pause in the postwar tourism boom. During the current economic troubles, local governments have kept in the black with federal assistance, now coming to an end in most cases.

“Federal funds are nice to look at, but remember, they don’t last forever,” he told about 120 people gathered for the morning session of the two-day annual meeting of the Hawaii State Association of Counties at the Grand Wailea.

The Garden Island reports that the cost of a $28,000 multi-use path in Kapaa has “snowballed” into $338,500:

Kauai County Council member Mel Rapozo cast the lone “no” vote Dec. 15 when the seven-member legislative body approved the ratification of a July 28 purchase agreement between the county and Kapaa Sands’ association of owners.

“They come to us with this request and we approve it, and then the number comes out to here,” Rapozo said. “It’s embarrassing now, because look at what we’ve approved, and we didn’t even know it.”

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that military personnel and visiting students “shouldn’t be counted” in establishing new County Council districts because they aren’t permanent Big Island residents:

That’s the determination of the county attorney advising the all-volunteer Redistricting Commission responsible for dividing the island’s population evenly into nine council districts.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Udovic filed his opinion (yesterday) afternoon with the commission, which is scheduled to consider his definition of “resident population” during its 1:30 p.m. meeting today in Hilo.

West Hawaii Today reports that a Young Bros. rate increase request first filed in December is finally moving forward:

The average 24 percent rate increase request came as a result of continued declining cargo volumes, compounded by the economy and a Public Utilities Commission decision to allow competitor Pasha Hawaii to start some intraisland shipping, Young Bros. officials said.

The PUC Tuesday announced it was finally ready for public meetings and its consideration of the Young Bros. request.

Catch up on previous coverage:

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