Editorial: Small Income for 2021 Laws

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At the start of the 2021 legislature, elected state Capitol leaders stared into the abyss. The coronavirus pandemic had shut down most of the tourism industry for nearly a year and depleted the state’s general excise tax, which funds much of the state government.

Without a clear idea of ​​whether or not Congress would get financial aid to states, lawmakers pondered how spending could be cut to fix what Governor David Ige would do with a deficit of each over the next four years Predicted $ 1.4 billion.

The pandemic aid luckily came and overruled the imperative for layoffs or vacations among government employees.

Unfortunately, it has thwarted the need to make significant gains in a campaign that lawmakers themselves had pledged to do from the start: reshape the government to be more efficient in the face of difficult times ahead.

Some of the proposed consolidation work proved difficult to get this session through. Legislators admitted the State House and Senate were adjourned for the year on Thursday.

At least one attempt to downsize the government has borne fruit, but unfortunately that attempt has been misplaced. It was trained in the agency most central to restoring the state’s basic visitor industry, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), which has enough on its plate this year of rebuilding without being undermined by lawmakers tightening it want to take it on.

All of this means there will be many deferred promises in 2022 – not least the promise to raise the state minimum wage, as well as ongoing uncertainty over Hawaii’s economic health and the state budget.

There will be no federal aid, at least nothing on the scale of this year’s US bailout, to fill the remaining budget gaps. It will also be an election year that is never an opportune time for changes or cuts that require such a strong political upturn.

The House Democratic majority leadership said Thursday that efforts to cut back a bit of state bureaucracy encountered a backlash from the Ige government.

To take just one example, MP Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of house finance, said even a proposal to shut down the state’s aerospace agency, a little-known agency that lacks a director, stalled at the end of the session devices.

More importantly, the governor has signaled his concern about the passage of House Bill 862. In combination with HB 200, the measure improves the operation of the tourism authority. In the event of a waiver, the HTA would lose about a quarter of its budget as well as the earmarked source of funding to the temporary housing tax.

Instead, the HTA would have to routinely apply for its household allowance to the legislature, which makes it difficult for the authority to carry out the multi-year planning necessary for effective tourism marketing.

Furthermore, the counties would lose their shares in the TAT. While they would now be empowered to set their own hotel room tax of up to 3 percentage points to make up the difference, it is unclear what effect this could have on the nationwide hotel occupancy, which had an unprecedented success.

On Thursday, the HTA board met to discuss the proposed cuts. John De Fries, President and CEO of the agency, said the governor made a notice to the board during the meeting expressing his “deep concern” about HB 862.

Well. The thought of redesigning HTA at this critical moment is worrying, and Ige’s discomfort with approving the bill is well founded. Tourism is at a particularly sensitive point and Kamaaina is concerned to contain it on a more sustainable level.

In addition, the future of the sector, aggravated by a global health crisis, is bleak at best. Legislators claim that the TAT restructuring will force tourists to pay more of the cost of managing the natural resources. There’s also the passage from HB 1276, which allows for “dynamic pricing” in state parks, which is a great start.

But when it comes to the overarching monitoring and planning of tourism, legislative efforts to exercise control regardless of intent would certainly add more insecurity to an already unsafe landscape.

Legislators pride themselves on the hard work they have done to stabilize public finances at a difficult time. They cited various government corrections such as: B. Raids against predatory payday loans that are OK in the plus column for the session.

At the start of the session, lawmakers acted prudently to limit the impact of debilitating unemployment rates on Hawaii’s employers, who now do not have to bear the brunt of the punishment of increases in unemployment insurance taxes.

Admittedly, with small business struggles over the past year, it has also been a difficult time to hit the long-promised rise in the minimum wage.

But certainly Hawaii’s workforce rightly expects attention to be drawn to their needs now. Regardless of the remaining economic troubles, this bill will fall due on the legislature’s doorstep in 2022 – as will a number of others that will be postponed this year.