Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Tax hikes loom as state awaits Georgia election outcome, Los Angeles travel ban could hurt Hawaii tourism, COVID vaccinations lag, activists take over Hilo park near Kamehameha statue, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

State Budget and Finance Director Craig Hirai, (l) and Hawaii Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz discuss state budget Jan. 4, 2021. PC:Senate You Tube channel

Higher state taxes under consideration. Gov. David Ige’s administration is considering unspecified tax increases and “revenue enhancements” to help plug a projected $1.4 billion shortfall, members of the state Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means were told Monday. Star-Advertiser.

State Budget Director: It’s Too Soon To Tell If Tax Increases Are Coming. It is 16 days before the Legislature opens, but Gov. David Ige is still mulling the options. Civil Beat.

Georgia’s run-offs could play a role in the decision to raise Hawaii’s taxes (or not).
Senate run-offs in Georgia happening Tuesday could impact Hawaii’s financial situation. The state finance director said the run-offs could result in local lawmakers either raising taxes or not. The logic being: If the democrats win and control the U.S. Senate, it’s more likely that federal funds will head to the state, thus allowing leaders to balance the budget. Hawaii News Now.

Los Angeles County hospitalization surge, travel quarantine could impact Hawaii’s tourism. Los Angeles County is implementing new travel restrictions — including not allowing tourism into L.A. and requiring residents to quarantine for 10 days if arriving from outside of Southern California. As Hawaii’s biggest domestic visitor market, the new restrictions have an impact on the recovering economy. KHON2.

The latest federal relief package will allow some struggling Hawaii businesses, including Hawaiian Airlines, to return some involuntarily laid-off or furloughed workers to their jobs. Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said in addition to providing the Payroll Support Program to airlines, which are a critical component of Hawaii’s economy, the most recent federal stimulus package also provides additional payroll protection program funds. Star-Advertiser.

Economic forecast: Visitor numbers could hit 6M this year. State economists believe travel to the state could nearly return to 2019 levels by the end of this year, but a complete recovery will take more than three years. Tribune-Herald.

DHHL: Oahu casino would add $30M to coffers. DHHL Deputy Chair Tyler Gomes said in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Facebook Live stream the integrated resort and casino would add a “conservative estimate” of $30 million a year to the coffers of the department, which has a lengthy list of Native Hawaiians waiting for homesteads on about 203,000 acres of DHHL land statewide. Tribune-Herald.


Lt. Governor Josh Green Wants More Resources Dedicated to Vaccination Effort. Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said as of Tuesday morning, the state will have received 91,000 total doses of COVID-19 vaccines. KITV4.

Late deliveries, holiday season behind slow speed of state’s coronavirus vaccine rollout. Health officials blame the delay on two factors. First, not all of the expected doses of the vaccine arrived on time ― the state was expecting 81,000 doses in December, but only got about 60,000. And second, the holiday season also presented a challenge, limiting the number of immunization clinics that the state was able to utilize. Hawaii News Now.

Vaccination efforts to ramp up following the holidays in Hawaii.
The state expects to receive 17,675 doses on Monday and Tuesday. The Health Department says as of Thursday about 25,000 people have been vaccinated. KHON2.


State Sent Out Hundreds Of Ineffective Masks In Pandemic Chaos. The masks with valves were removed from the inventory of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency but somehow got back in. Civil Beat.

People are motivated to wear a mask when others wear one, study finds. The study found the motivation for wearing a mask is a combination of whether others around you are wearing one and whether others think you should be wearing one. Jack Barile, interim director of the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Social Sciences, was lead author of the study examining the motivators behind an individual’s choice to wear or not wear a face covering in public. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Restaurant Card gave a nice boost, but $5M never spent. The Hawaii Restaurant Card Program gave a significant boost to the local economy but the state says $5 million went unused. KHON2.

Will Hawaii Legislature Reverse Ige’s Suspension Of The Public Records Law? The governor’s order has been in effect since March, but it’s unclear if lawmakers will do anything about it next session despite their opposition to it. Civil Beat.

HAWAII VIRUS TRACKER — Jan. 4: 89 New COVID-19 Cases. Health officials reported 89 new COVID-19 cases statewide on Monday, including 62 on Oahu, nine on Maui, four on the Big Island, and 14 Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state. Civil Beat.


Legislators aim to fix flaw in New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District bill. Legislators say they plan to introduce a new measure this month to repair a flaw in earlier legislation that has slowed the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District. Star-Advertiser.

Judge dismisses obstruction case against Kealoha conspiracy victim. Ransen Taito became entangled in the conspiracy involving former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha when he was just 11 years old. After Taito and his sister were awarded nearly $84,000 as part of a medical malpractice settlement, Kealoha was appointed by the state to oversee trust accounts that were established for both of them. Hawaii News Now.

Commissioning event eyed for USS Daniel Inouye
. The long-delayed guided-missile destroyer USS Daniel Inouye is tentatively scheduled to be commissioned at Pearl Harbor in the fall with a big pier-side ceremony attended by thousands — if COVID-19 is under control. Star-Advertiser.

Matson to welcome new vessel to Honolulu. A bigger and faster Matsonia cargo ship is due to arrive in Honolulu Harbor this morning on its maiden commercial voyage for Hawaii’s largest ocean cargo transportation firm, Matson Inc. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Activists occupy part of Wailoa state park. A group claiming the authority of the Hawaiian Kingdom has again set up camp in Hilo’s Wailoa State Recreation Area and planted taro and fruit trees it describes as a “kanaka garden” on the lawn near the statue of Kamehameha the Great. Tribune-Herald.

$77M in bonds will cover old debts, finance new projects. The county has sold $77.1 million in general obligation bonds to retire old debt and free up money to pay for new capital projects, Finance Director Deanna Sako said in a report to the County Council. West Hawaii Today.

New management in place at veterans home. On Jan. 1, the governing board and leadership of Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s East Hawaii Region assumed management of the Hilo veterans home from Avalon Health Care, which had managed the HHSC facility since it opened in 2007. Tribune-Herald.

Lawsuit: DOE Failed To Help Hilo Student Who Was Harassed And Bullied
. The federal lawsuit is directed against the Hawaii department and board of education for failing to intervene and stop the nearly yearlong bullying. Civil Beat.


Lee to lead council with public health and budget as priorities. Public health and safety, balancing the county budget and creating a county Department of Agriculture are some of the top issues the new Maui County Council will tackle this year, its leader said Sunday. Maui News.

Maui County on verge of return to ‘safer at home’ order, mayor says. Maui County is seeing a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, according to officials. More than two dozen cases were reported on both Thursday and Friday, with nearly 50 more cases on Saturday and 30 more on Sunday. Hawaii News Now.

Harbor Lights COVID-19 Cluster Rises to 68. The COVID-19 case count at the Harbor Lights condominium complex in Kahului has risen to 68 confirmed, according to an update provided by Maui Mayor Michael Victorino. Maui Now.


Maui parents blindsided after distance learning is extended an extra month. Students in the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui complex were set to return to some form of in-person learning on Tuesday, but instead will have to learn from home until at least Feb. 1 after the Complex-Area Superintendent Kathleen Dimino sent a letter home to families Monday night. Hawaii News Now.

Surging COVID-19 Cases Trigger Last-Minute Delay To Start Blended Learning at Most Maui Public Schools. Just one day before the 20 public schools of the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui complex area were set to reopen after the winter break, a letter was sent to staff, parents and guardians stating the scheduled shift to blended learning would be delayed until Feb. 1. Maui Now.

Public schools to resume this week. As Maui County public school students head back to class this week to begin the second semester, many will be entering blended learning schedules where students will receive both in-person learning as well as virtual learning. Maui News.


Hale Pilina Family Affordable Rental Housing Project Proposed for Development Next to Kahului Post Office on Maui. A Draft Environmental Assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact was published for the Hale Pilina Family Affordable Rental Housing project in Kahului, Maui. Maui Now.


Mayor Kawakami says COVID-19 infections were limited on Kaua'i, many small businesses able to stay open. Kaua'i is currently in the least restrictive Tier Four of its recovery plan with a seven-day average one case per day, and a positivity rate of just 1%. KITV4.

Inter-island travel returns, new resort bubble program starts. Tuesday marks the county’s return to kama‘aina travel and starts renewed options for those staying at a resort bubble property. Garden Island.

Kaua'i hotels see uptick in reservations ahead of changes to travel rules. Gary Moore, manager of Timbers Kaua'i Ocean Club & Residences, said things are looking up--bookings rose 15 percent since Gov. David Ige approved new "resort bubble" regulations last week. KITV4.

Kaua‘i students go back to school. Thousands of public school students return to the classrooms following the Winter Break, and the Teacher Workday, Monday. Garden Island.


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