Archive for December, 2011

$2.2b

December 13th, 2011
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Hawaii received $2.2 billion in federal stimulus spending and $1.9 billion had been expended through September, according to a federal economic stimulus oversight commission created by the state Legislature.

Here is a breakdown for how the money was divided:

*Income Security ($788.9 million; 35.3%)

*Health ($603 million; 27.0%)

*Education & Training ($376.9 million; 16.8%)

*Transportation ($200.5 million; 9.0%)

*Energy & Environment ($168 million; 7.5%)

*Community Development ($99.1 million; 4.4%)

Endorsed

December 13th, 2011
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Six private-sector labor unions have endorsed former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District.

Hannemann won the backing of the International Association of Reinforcing, Structural, and Ornamental Iron
Workers Union Local 625, the Sheet Metal Workers Local 293, and the District Council 50 –made up of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades Local 1791; Glaziers, Architectural Metal, and Glassworkers Local Union 1889; Carpet, Linoleum, and Soft Tile Local Union 1926; and the Drywall Tapers and Finishers Local Union 1944.

Hannemann is up against Honolulu City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard, state Office of Hawaiian Affairs chief advocate Esther Kiaaina, Hilo attorney Bob Marx, and patients’ rights advocate Rafael del Castillo in the primary.

Up

December 12th, 2011
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A new private poll taken for U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono’s Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Senate has the congresswoman with a significant 18-percentage point lead over former congressman Ed Case.

The horse race:

Hirono: 54%
Case: 36%
Another candidate: 3%
Don’t know: 7%

The poll also found that Hirono had a higher favorability rating — 72 percent — than Case — 61 percent.

The Benenson Strategy Group, a Washington, D.C., based firm, conducted the poll among 800 likely Democratic primary voters from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19. The margin of error was 3.46 percentage points.

The last public poll in the primary — by Public Policy Polling in October — had Hirono at 45 percent and Case at 40 percent.

Super

December 8th, 2011
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Dylan Nonaka, the former executive director of the Hawaii Republican Party, has formed a new political committee to take advantage of the potential for unlimited political spending through independent expenditures.

Hawaii Solutions, Nonaka said, could help GOP candidates level the playing field in Hawaii with majority Democrats, who enjoy financial and grassroots support from many labor and business interests. Independent expenditures are not coordinated with individual campaigns.

From Nonaka:

Because of recent court cases, both locally and nationally, Independent Expenditure Committees are now able to take an unlimited amount of funds from individuals and businesses. Hawaii Solutions is one of the first organizations in Hawaii to file under these new laws and, as you can imagine, this has the potential to significantly change the game of political advocacy.

I have long believed that Republican and Conservative candidates in Hawaii are at a double disadvantage. Not only do people traditionally vote Democrat here, Democrats have a significant advantage when it comes to third party spending. Democrats have all the unions, numerous Political Action Committees, and the State Democratic Party to spend money on behalf of their candidates. Our candidates can only count on the State GOP. To put it simply, we are out gunned.

I see Hawaii Solutions as a critical step toward leveling the playing field. Through Hawaii Solutions we will have the ability to match the unlimited amount of money spent by special interests on our state elections as long as we do not coordinate our efforts with candidates or their campaigns.

As you know, the values we communicate are important in all campaigns and we have worked to develop a message for Hawaii Solutions that can resonate with people on the whole range of the political spectrum. When someone receives our mail or sees an advertisement from us, they’ll know we share the same values.

`Victory lap’

December 8th, 2011
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Three former Lingle administration officials – budget director Georgina Kawamura, state comptroller Russ Saito, and chief of staff Barry Fukunaga – have released a statement critical of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s celebration of a record $1.3 billion bond sale.

The governor has said the bond sale validates his fiscal stewardship. The bonds will pay for state construction projects, while the cash proceeds from selling the bonds at a premium may be used to replenish the state’s hurriance relief fund and rainy day fund.

From the Lingle trio:

As reported by the media statewide, the state’s recent $1.3 billion in new borrowing through a bond issuance was noteworthy for its size, and Governor Abercrombie called it the singular success of his administration to date.

However, taking a victory lap due to the success of this new borrowing is misleading if the underlying factors that made it possible are not considered.

First, the success of the bond issuance was due in large part to tax increases that occurred in Hawaii. Rating agencies (Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, Fitch) and bond investors welcome a borrower that has strengthened its revenues. Increasing revenue for a business usually means earnings growth resulting from efficiency, price competitiveness or a better product. But for government, without the efficiency of service delivery or judicious spending, it usually means more taxes on the public.

To achieve the revenue improvement to support the recent bond offering, the Abercrombie Administration and the Legislature raised taxes in the 2011 Session to the tune of $600 million. This no doubt pleased the rating agencies, but it is important to note that the additional $600 million in new taxes will come out of the pockets of Hawaii’s residents and visitors.

In contrast, the Lingle Administration issued bonds while achieving higher credit ratings and it did so without raising taxes.

The second reason the victory lap is misleading is the Abercrombie Administration’s plan to repay the state’s Hurricane Relief and the Rainy Day funds from monies borrowed by this bond sale. Maybe the administration wants our residents to forget that the raid on these reserve funds broke a promise to Hawaii’s taxpayers that these taxpayer monies were set aside for use in emergencies such as hurricanes.

Beyond that broken promise, public finance experts agree that general obligation bond issuance should be invested in capital construction projects. In other words, money borrowed should be invested in buildings, roads and other capital improvements that increase economic activity, thereby enabling governments to collect more taxes to repay the money borrowed. It is unwise to use borrowed money to pay for salaries and other operating costs, because the state will pay interest on those borrowed funds.

In this case, the Abercrombie Administration will put the borrowed money in an account only to pay interest on it – interest that is ultimately paid for by taxpayers. It’s like a household setting up a savings account by charging a credit card. When it comes due, there will be more debt to repay. That is nothing to celebrate.

Again, in contrast, the Lingle Administration balanced its budgets without raiding these reserve funds.

Finally, the celebration is misleading because the success of the bond issuance was also based in large part on the 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. This CAFR is a report card on financial management during the Lingle Administration.

Gov. Abercrombie, who has criticized the financial management of the Lingle Administration, cannot claim credit for the CAFR results while simultaneously accusing the previous administration of not prudently governing in the last two years of its term. It’s like running a victory lap on the back of another runner.

`I’m supporting Mazie’

December 7th, 2011
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U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that she would support U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono over former congressman Ed Case in the Democratic primary for Senate in Hawaii.

The Washington state Democrat appeared with several women Senate recruits for 2012, according to the National Journal’s HotlineOnCall:

Hawaii: Murray made her support for Hirono, who is facing off with former Rep. Ed Case in the Hawaii primary, clear. “I’m supporting Mazie, and I believe she’s going to win,” said Murray.

That the DSCC is backing Hirono is no surprise. Back in August, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil accused Case of not “being honest” with a poll his campaign released.

Case pushed back in a statement Thursday:

While Mazie’s been selling her candidacy to the DC insiders, I’ve taken mine straight to Hawaii’s voters, who aren’t too interested in Washington telling them how to fix Washington.

Jadine Nielsen, the finance chair for the Hirono campaign, had this response:

Obviously, if you’re Ed Case, it’s frustrating not to earn endorsements from respected Democratic Senators. It’s just unfortunate, and unworthy of the people of Hawaii, that Ed Case lets those frustrations with his own candidacy get the better of him. Lashing out at Mazie Hirono, the Democratic Party, and its leaders isn’t what Hawaii is hoping for in our U.S. Senator.

Remember

December 7th, 2011
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U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who was a teenage medical volunteer for the Red Cross when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 70 years today, marked the anniversary with comments on Senate floor.

Click here.

Transform

December 6th, 2011
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The Abercrombie administration has made significant progress in cashing general-excise tax payments.

In July, the state Department of Taxation processed 72,754 payments within seven days, compared to just 219 payments within that time frame in July 2010. The department has made cashing the payments a priority after hearing complaints from the business community that it often took more than a month before payments were processed.

At an informational briefing Tuesday before the state Senate Ways and Means Committee and the state Senate Economic Development and Technology Committee, Abercrombie administration tax officials said they inherited a department that was highly politicized, had inefficient processes, and inflexible and outdated functionality.

The Department of Taxation processes more than 2.4 million tax returns a year, 70 percent that are filed on paper. Tax analysts hope to reverse the practice and have 70 percent of returns filed electronically by 2014.

The department also processes more than 1.7 million tax payments a year, 68 percent filed on paper.

Improving the efficiency of tax collections is one of the goals of the state’s broader information technology transformation.

Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, the state’s chief information officer, told senators that the transformation would be done in seven phases over 11 years. He plans to present the state Legislature with a detailed plan by next July estimating the cost and the technology necessary to complete the transformation.

“The opportunity is right in front of us,” he said. “It’s not just money, it’s innovation.”

Purpose

December 5th, 2011
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Dale McFeatters, an editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service, writes of the waning influence of the World War II era on the nation’s politics.

Only three WWII veterans remain in Congress, she writes, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.

As it did for so many, the war and the G.I. Bill broadened narrow pre-war horizons. Lautenberg, head of a $9 billion company before becoming a senator, would have been grateful for a job as a bus driver; Inouye, who has represented Hawaii in the Senate for more than 48 years, imagined he’d be a store clerk.

For many, the war enabled them to transcend their nation’s failings. Inouye, like other Japanese-Americans, was stigmatized as an enemy alien. Many of their families were cruelly interned in camps, for which the U.S. government formally apologized.

Inouye lost his right arm in combat with the Germans as a member of the heavily decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He and 19 other survivors of that unit were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Inouye spoke for many veterans in a recent interview when he said, “I left the war as an adult ― I was a teenager when I got in ― feeling rather proud of myself as an American, and to this day I look upon my country as a great country.”

Should an ill fate demand it of us again, we must hope we are still the kind of nation that can summon that sense of purpose, unity and national resolve.

Chair

December 2nd, 2011
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Tim Johns, an executive at the Hawaii Medical Service Association and a former director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said Friday that he will chair U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono’s Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Senate.

Johns was DLNR director when Hirono was lieutenant governor for Gov. Ben Cayetano.

“Coming from my longtime support, and knowing her values and knowing her personally, I just felt like it was really important for all of us to be thinking about the future of Hawaii,” he said of his decision to volunteer on the campaign. “It’s a very important race, and I think it was very important for me to jump in and do what I can to help Mazie be successful in this way.”

Betsy Lin, Hirono’s chief of staff in Washington, D.C., has taken a leave of absence to work on the Senate campaign. Lin helped with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s successful primary campaign against former congressman Ed Case in 2006.

Hirono and Case are competing in the primary to replace Akaka, D-Hawaii, who is not seeking another term.

Case has Lloyd Nekoba, a trusted former adviser to Cayetano and Gov. Neil Abercrombie, to manage his campaign.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle, the leading Republican contender, has turned to retired Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee as her campaign manager.