Hawaii judge refuses to block tax investment ballot question

HONOLULU — A judge has ruled against a motion by Hawaii’s four counties to block November ballots from asking voters if they want to amend the Hawaii Constitution to allow the state to tax investment property.

First Circuit Judge Jeff Crabtree said Friday that Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui counties did not meet the standards required for granting a preliminary injunction, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

The counties are suing the state, arguing that the ballot question is unlawfully vague and that the Legislature didn’t follow proper procedures in passing the measure.

The bill instructed the ballot question to be phrased as follows: “Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

The counties argue that the wording of the question is misleading because it doesn’t make clear that it is really a tax. The counties say the term “investment real property” is ambiguous and undefined.

But Crabtree said the question did not appear to rise to the level of being unlawful.

“I do not find the proposed language is deceptive,” he said. “Is the language as thorough and definitive as one would like? No . This language is not as clear as it could be. That said, (the statute) does not require that the proposed constitutional amendment contain a detailed description of all the issues and possible effects connected to the proposed amendment.”

Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong told reporters after the ruling she was disappointed, but that the counties will press on in the lawsuit while working to educate voters about why they oppose granting the Legislature the taxation power.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com


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