Hawaii remains cold to business
Hawaii ranks among the worst states in the latest Small Business Survival Index.
HAWAII continues to be among the states considered unfriendly to business in the annual Small Business Survival Index. While it is only the latest such assessment to come from groups regarded as conservative and anti-union, the state's business climate can be improved without making life more difficult for employees.
The small-business index has numerous criteria for evaluating states' friendliness in ranking Hawaii 46th. Hawaii's score is damaged most by the combination of its personal income tax -- tied for seventh highest in the country -- and general excise tax -- tied for highest with Washington state, which has no income tax. Hawaii is sure to be alone at the top after the excise tax increase is implemented to support mass transit on Oahu.
The state and counties have taken measures in recent years to reduce regulation, and the state is considering tax relief as a result of the current budget surplus. Hawaii legislators can make doing business easier in three categories without gouging workers:
» Hawaii's workers compensation premiums are fourth-highest in the nation. The Legislature has refused to reform in the last three sessions and blocked Governor Lingle's attempt to improve the system within the parameters of state law.
» Despite having the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 2.6 percent, Hawaii continues to impose the sixth-highest unemployment tax rate on companies. That has resulted in an excessive pool of $400 million in the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Lingle proposed reducing the maximum wage base for the jobless tax to save employers $196 million for a three-year period, but legislators refused to go along in this year's session.
» Hawaii is among only 10 states that impose sales tax on Internet access while claiming to be friendly to new technology. The tax sends a discouraging signal to high-tech companies that may consider setting up shop in the islands.
BACK TO TOP
Hawaii’s generosity is needed after quake
Hawaii is joining the rest of the country in contributing to relief for victims of the South Asia earthquake.
FOR the third time in less than a year, Hawaii residents are joining the rest of the nation in providing relief for victims of a huge natural disaster. Generosity this time should be directed at the Muslim Association of Hawaii for assistance to survivors of the magnitude-7.6 earthquake that struck Pakistan, India and Afghanistan a week ago.
More than 300 of the association's 3,000 members are from Pakistan, which was most heavily hit by the quake. The organization has set a goal of $50,000 for the earthquake victims, a modest amount because of its recent collection of $65,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Non-Muslims should join Muslims in vastly surpassing that goal, helping put to rest any notion that Americans are anti-Islam.
More than 35,000 are believed to have perished from the earthquake, which left more than 2.5 million homeless. While that fatality estimate compares to 200,000 lives lost from last December's tsunami in Indonesia, it is the second worst catastrophe in Pakistan's history; a cyclone that struck East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, 35 years ago took 300,000 lives.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has promised an initial $50 million to the relief effort, which is part of $350 million in pledges made to Pakistan, which has raised $16.6 million from within the country. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have promised $100 million each. President Pervez Musharraf has appealed for more international aid to help pay for the cost of rescue, relief and reconstruction.
The United States is among 30 countries that have sent relief equipment, doctors, tents, blankets, medicine and relief teams to the stricken area. More significantly, India's offer ranging from tents to mattresses was accepted by its enemy state. Cooperation between India and Pakistan in responding to the quake could lead to further cooperation between the two neighbors.