DOE’s repair backlog tripled from last year

In a budget briefing at the Legislature at about this time last year, state Department of Education officials reported that their backlog of repair and maintenance jobs was $293 million, and they were patting themselves on the back because it was a significant drop from the $392 million reported in 2010.

Zero-based budgeting can help state

Last week, we spent some time on “variance reports,” which is how our state government agencies report differences in position count and spending from one year to the next. The agencies are also supposed to report on performance measures that they pick themselves, but sometimes still disregard this requirement.

Carbon tax: Don’t fiddle while Paris burns

On Nov. 28, our state Climate Commission, consisting of 22 county and state government officials, issued a press release affirming that it supports a carbon tax “to achieve Hawaii’s ambitious and necessary emissions reduction goals.”

The county strikes back, part four

We continue with our series about a timeshare association suing Maui County seeking to invalidate its “time share” property classification, with the county then striking back.

The county strikes back

In this state, if you have a beef with the tax collector you can’t just go suing in any old court. We have a special court called the Tax Appeal Court that hears disputes about state taxes and county taxes.

An open-records case: Walden versus OHA’s LLCs

About half a year ago, we wrote about some limited liability companies formed by our Office of Hawaiian Affairs. These companies received cash and property, including 1,600-plus acres of land in Waimea Valley, from OHA.

Oahu’s rail project sits on a precarious perch

Recently, there has been fierce debate over Bill 42 before the Honolulu City Council. Here’s the background: In 2007, the city passed Ordinance 07-001, which says that the Honolulu rail project would be funded only with proceeds of the general excise tax surcharge and federal money.

Take-aways from the ‘Con-Am’ argument

On Oct. 18, the Supreme Court of Hawaii held oral argument on a petition by the four counties to invalidate “Con-Am,” the constitutional amendment ballot measure that would allow the state to slap a “surcharge,” essentially an additional property tax, on “investment” real property.

The myth of a state spending ceiling

This week, we look at another provision that was passed by the 1978 Constitutional Convention to assure our fiscal health — and what our lawmakers have done to marginalize it. As we mentioned in June, Hawaii Constitution Article VII, sections 8 and 9, limit general fund expenditures by an “expenditure ceiling.”

How the general income tax credit became history

Those of us who are getting along in years may remember the “general income tax credit,” a line on our state income tax return where we could claim a $1 credit. The saga of this credit tells us a little about a bold move undertaken in the 1978 Constitutional Convention and our lawmakers’ reaction, which was to beat it into insignificance within a couple of years.

This state agency can already impose a tax

Lots of the controversy swirling around the ballot measure seeking to impose a “surcharge” on investment property to support public education involves our Department of Education. The DOE currently receives an appropriation from the state’s general fund of about $2 billion and is also able to pull from other funding sources such as federal funds.

Constitutional question: Just say it’s a tax!

The news recently mentioned a lawsuit that the City and County of Honolulu, now joined by the other three counties, has leveled against our state government regarding the Hawaii State Teachers Association-sponsored constitutional amendment. The counties, obviously not overjoyed at the prospect of the state slapping a surcharge on their primary source of revenue, want the courts to void the ballot question.

Historic homes in Honolulu County

One of the more unique property tax exemptions in the City & County of Honolulu is the exemption for “Historic Residential Real Property Dedicated for Preservation.” Under the exemption ordinance, owners of historic homes can save thousands of dollars in real property taxes every year if they put up a certain plaque, allow viewing of the home and meet other requirements.