Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lawmakers look at raising taxes, Kona coffee shortchanged, thunderstorms nearing islands, Kauai to get a helicopter, more top Hawaii news

The state House is considering a measure that would temporarily increase general excise and use taxes by a percentage point, to 5 percent, in an effort to narrow the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit.

Hawaii state lawmakers are advancing a bill to hike the taxes for the next five years on hard liquor, wine, beer and all other spirits.

Hesitant about the political and economic consequences of raising the state's general excise tax, state House lawmakers are walking through several potential alternatives, including another increase in income taxes and eliminating tax breaks for investors and nonprofits.

Neighbor Island mayors and other county executives went before state lawmakers yesterday to again fight to keep their shares of the hotel room tax revenues.

The state and the four counties are squabbling over nearly $100 million collected from the transient accommodations tax. Every hotel room is taxed by the state which then splits it amongst each county. But the state wants to keep that money for the next three years to help balance the budget.

The state Office of Elections has a new permanent chief election officer, but that was the only question resolved about the upcoming 2010 election season.

A large area of thunderstorms south of Hawaii has been showing signs of intensification and organization this morning, but the Central Pacific Hurricane Center says chances of development into a tropical cyclone remain low.

An unusual situation has popped up in the central Pacific Ocean about 1300 miles south of the Hawaiian islands. Even though Hawaii is well outside of hurricane season, forecasters are watching for possible strengthening and organization of a group of thunderstorms brewing near the Line Islands.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is awarding more than $180,000 to Big Island-based programs aimed at perpetuating the Hawaiian culture.

Kona coffee farmers are losing out on up to $14.4 million in revenue annually to corporate marketers of 10 percent Kona coffee blends, according to a study released last Wednesday.

A one-of-a-kind miniature submarine that flies underwater is visiting Maui this month. It doesn't "fly" very fast - only 6 knots maximum or around 7 mph - but it works just like an airplane, said its crew chief, Dave Harper.

Crossing the “T”s and dotting the “I”s on a commitment it made last week, the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday unanimously approved two measures enabling Kaua‘i to become the last Hawai‘i county to have its own dedicated public-use helicopter.