Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 |
Share this story
• Who makes up the County government?
Who makes up the County government?
The Pacific Legal Foundation is coming to the aid of the Ohana Kauai property tax reform group.
Fifth Circuit Court Judge George Masuoka ruled in March that the group’s property tax charter amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters last November is invalid. Masuoka concurred with the County Council and Mayor Bryan Baptiste. The court and council have said only county government has the right to set tax policy for local government in Kaua‘i, based on the state constitution and the county charter, which defines the roles and powers of the Kaua‘i County government.
A representative of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Legal Foundation is saying that the appeal is not focusing on the issue of whether property tax reform should be implemented, but rather who has the right to make that decision. Is it the people of Kaua‘i or elected officials – or both?
In 1978 a constitutional amendment to California’s tax laws known as Proposition 13 was voted in by over 60 percent of the registered voters in that state. The amendment greatly reduced property tax payments made by California homeowners and was noted nationwide as a key “taxpayers revolt” win. The proper title of the amendment was the “People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation.” Today Proposition 13 remains in effect and has changed the face of California real estate tax laws.
The coming court battle over who gets to make decisions in county government in Hawai‘i on taxing issues will either end up agreeing with Judge Masuoka’s decision, or it will open the door to voter-directed tax reform across the state.
Also at issue here is the current nationwide focus on judicial activism. While it appears that Judge Masuoka doesn’t fit into this uproar over judges who appear to be applying their own personal preferences to their judicial decisions, in our higher courts this may come down to the viewpoints of the judges hearing the case. Will they be for limited government or for tight control of the people through government?
We see this issue as one that may well be a preview of how the Kaua‘i County government is run in the near future, and in the long-term. That the Ohana Kauai charter amendment won by such a large margin is telling, as is the strong reaction against it at the last minute by our county government once they realized that the amendment was a winner at the polls.
The court battle may also mark a turning point in where the power of the electorate sits on Kaua‘i. Ohana Kauai is made up of Kaua‘i residents who have been here for years, but who were not raised on Kaua‘i. With our population growth booming on the North Shore and South Shore through in-migration of mostly Mainland residents the traditional political strongholds that determine county elections may see shifts, with more voters who have benefited from Proposition 13 and other tax reform issues casting ballots.
It would be interesting to see what would happen in California if Judge Masuoka made his ruling there. And it will prove interesting to see where our county and state stand once this issue winds its way to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
By participating in online discussions you
acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful
discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments
are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines,
send us an email.