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For Monday, June 20, 2011

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 1:45 a.m. HST, Jun 20, 2011

Governor OKs multiple tax increases

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed into law most of the tax increases passed by the state Legislature.

The Democratic governor approved measures eliminating business exemptions, raising vehicle fees and shrinking deductions.

In all, the Legislature passed more than $600 million worth of tax hikes over the next two years to help balance a $1.3 billion projected deficit.

The largest tax measure removes exemptions to the state's general excise tax currently granted to businesses including subcontractors, sublessors and Hawaiian Airlines, raising about $200 million a year.

The next-biggest tax bill standardizes rental car surcharges at $7.50 per day and diverts $60 million of those fees to the general fund.

Another bill, worth about $57 million a year, targets higher-income earners by removing state income tax deductions and limiting itemized deductions.

Apply for women's legal aid grants

The Hawaii Women's Legal Foundation is accepting grant applications for projects to help improve the legal status and welfare of women and children in the state.

The foundation announced Friday that the deadline for applications is July 8.

Grant amounts typically range from $500 to $5,000, but the foundation says it occasionally gives more substantial awards to particularly worthy projects that support the mission of helping Hawaii's women and children.

Project criteria include improving access to the legal system, reducing abuse and increasing financial independence.

Neighborhood Place of Wailuku received a prior grant to provide family-strengthening activities and programs for single-woman households with young children.

Restored ponds safe for swimming

A water quality test conducted last week on Lydgate ponds shows the water is safe for swimmers, Kauai County said in a news release Friday.

According to the report by the state Health Department, levels of turbidity, or murkiness, have been fluctuating since the ponds’ restoration and bacteria levels remain acceptable.

Water quality tests of the Lydgate ponds are conducted twice a week by Department of Health officials.

The ponds were reopened on May 27 following an eight-week restoration project.

“The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park wish to express our appreciation for the county’s lead effort that has restored the ponds closer to their original depth and sea wall height,” said general coordinator Tommy Noyes, noting that the Friends had appealed to the county for several years to work on the ponds.

In a report to the county, Oceanit, the restoration consultant, said the murkiness or slightly elevated levels of turbidity are the result of the dredging work exposing fine-grained muddy sediments that could not be removed. Over the next few months, the murkiness is expected to slowly dissipate as the water moves through the pond and beach sand covers the muddy sediment, Oceanit said.

The fish are returning to the ponds and are expected to reach quantities similar to what they were prior to the dredging work, according to Oceanit.

Goodfellow Bros. Inc. was awarded a $274,450 contract for the Lydgate ponds restoration project.

For more information, contact the county Department of Parks and Recreation at 241-4460.

 Hear state’s plans

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other officials will discuss state efforts regarding the economy, homelessness, public schools and other topics at a community forum Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Washington Middle School cafeteria. Volunteers are needed for the event. Contactgovernor.abercrombie@hawaii.gov.

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