Don’t use AGI for pension tax
Thanks to Barbara Kim Stanton for reminding seniors that the pension tax is not dead ("Pension tax fight is not over yet," Letters, Star-Advertiser, April 19).
The full Senate wisely decided to remove the taxing-of-pensions provision entirely in House Bill 1092 after the attorney general said it may be unconstitutional and subject to lawsuits.
It is important to note that Senate Bill 570 had no mention of a pension tax when it left the Senate. The House Finance Committee added the pension tax and it is now heading to conference committee.
This bill is grossly unfair in determining who will be taxed on their pensions and who will not.
If pensions absolutely must be taxed, it should be based on the amount of the pension that exceeds a certain threshold, not the AGI. This would exempt those with lower level incomes and spread the sacrifice equally.
Jo Ann Kocher
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It’s politics as usual at City Hall
Mayor Peter Carlisle says, "Steps are being taken to remove the specter of politics from Honolulu Hale. Changing a culture as complex as the city and the culture that supports it takes time ("Next year’s mayoral race could be re-run of last year’s," On Politics, Star-Advertiser, April 19)."
Turns out it doesn’t take any time at all because it’s not happening.
Our mayor has named a bank CEO, former director of construction trades, and the city corporation counsel to the newly formed transit board. City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia named an attorney and former director of Honolulu budget and fiscal services, a property development manager, and the manager for the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
This is change? Where is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Sierra Club, the Outdoor Circle or credible, objective outsiders? Maybe someone who’s actually done this before?
Legislative focus must be on cuts
The Building Industry Association of Hawaii is a beneficiary of the nonprofit general excise tax exemption as it is a 501(c), 6, trade organization.
While we continue to look for ways to streamline our operations and provide our members with representation in these types of public policy debates, we cannot help but wonder why so much attention is being focused on the revenue side of the books rather than on severely restricting government spending.
We are not tea party advocates promoting a dismantling of government services. We are, however, strong advocates of using the economic downturn as an opportunity to right-size government.
There are essential public education, health and safety programs that government should fund. All other programs should be abolished, restricted for a period of time or supported with non-tax revenues such as user fees.
Most businesses would focus on their core functions and restrict or eliminate non-core activities.
This would be a more responsible way to balance the state’s budget, rather than squeezing nonprofits through the elimination of their GET exemption.
Karen T. Nakamura
Executive vice president and chief executive officer, BIA-Hawaii
Politicians need to bite bullet, too
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa is reducing the number of people in his jurisdiction, and state Sen. Sam Slom has recommended the same for state employees.
Everyone is asked to bite the bullet but legislators and Council members. No one has asked them to reduce their staffs. One representative has a staff of four. One must be used as a personal photographer who takes pictures of the representative to be printed in the color brochure titled "Community Update."
Has anyone audited the discretionary funds available to the legislators?
Shelters could use volunteers
Bravo for Jay Fidell’s column ("Economic recovery relies on supporting homeless," Think Tech, Star-Advertiser, April 12). It was a well-written and honest piece about homelessness in our state.
We encourage people who want to make a difference to please partner up with an established social services agency. We’ve seen dozens of groups feeding people out in the parks and on the beaches. We recognize that this is done with the best of intentions, but unless they’re coordinated with some type of outreach or social services, in many cases they’re enabling the homeless and encouraging them to stay put.
Please humbly consider this fact and perhaps entertain the idea of volunteering at a shelter or one of the many soup kitchens that provide hot meals to the homeless every day. We need your help.
Executive director, Institute for Human Services