Efforts are making it easier to do business in Hawaii
The Star-Bulletin's Oct. 13 article titled "Hawaii has harsh policies, study says" correctly concludes that Hawaii has high taxes, a steep minimum wage and the nation's highest electricity costs. This study only confirms what everyone in Hawaii has known to be the case for a long time. Things will not change until lawmakers stop seeing business-friendly initiatives as being bad for Hawaii's people. Usually, in fact, just the opposite is true.
Theodore E. Liu
Director, state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism
Mark E. Recktenwald
Director the state Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs.
Nelson B. Befitel
Director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
In the meantime, the Lingle-Aiona administration is proposing new laws and implementing new rules (when the Legislature does not intervene and take away rule-making authority), doing everything we can, where we can, to help businesses succeed in Hawaii.
In our first 30 months, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has reduced fees and assessments for businesses by more than $10 million. We started two years ago by cutting fees by 25 percent for people who set up new businesses or who file their annual corporate reports online. This past year, we increased those cuts by an additional 25 percent, and extended them to those who file by paper as well as those who file online. Where possible, a similar reduction was offered to professional licensees who renewed their licenses online.
We are not stopping there. We have just adopted a rule that permits us to reduce or temporarily eliminate DCCA's portion of the franchise fee that you pay as part of your monthly cable television bill. Based on that new rule, we have issued an order directing the cable franchisee to eliminate this charge from your cable bill for the foreseeable future. We hope to be in a position to waive the fee for almost two years, and thereby save cable subscribers more than $1 million.
Now, not only is it less expensive, but it is more convenient to do business here. We took a big step forward last October by launching a new service called Hawaii Business Express. HBE enables people to start a new business online, rather than having to stand in line at government offices or fill out paperwork by hand. HBE cuts through the red tape and enables people to register their businesses with DCCA, obtain their general excise tax licenses from the Department of Taxation, and obtain their unemployment insurance identification numbers from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in a single, online session. Since HBE went live in October, more than 2,300 businesses have been created using the system.
We took another big step in September, when, under the leadership of the Department of Accounting and General Services, we launched Hawaii Compliance Express. HCE cuts the amount of time and paperwork needed for vendors to demonstrate compliance with state laws. The online service enables companies that do business with the state to more easily comply with laws enacted to ensure vendors are good corporate citizens.
In addition, this administration will continue to encourage the Legislature to approve common-sense and long-overdue measures to reduce business costs. These include reforming the state's costly and outdated workers compensation system and lowering the unemployment insurance tax that businesses pay; precisely the factors that led to Hawaii being ranked 46th in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council survey.
A healthy 21st-century economy is one where government works to advance its citizens' interests, rather than ensure its mere survival. According to Mike Fitzgerald, president of Enterprise Honolulu, "Right now, the Hawaii economy is as good as it has ever been."
To ensure that the good times continue, Governor Lingle announced in June the formation of a 31-member Economic Momentum Commission. The commission is charged with developing an action plan that sustains the state's current economic momentum over the long term, avoiding the traditional peaks and valleys of economic cycles, and enhancing Hawaii's natural and cultural resources. The bipartisan commission has worked hard to develop preliminary recommendations, which will be finalized later this month. The public is encouraged to review and comment on the recommendations, which can be found on the commission's Web site at www.emc-hawaii.com.
While Hawaii remains an expensive place to do business, this provides only a black-and-white still photo of our economic condition. The fact that the economy is steaming, that businesses flourish in Hawaii, and that people continue to move their families and their companies here provides the color and shows the direction in which we are moving. A lot of work remains to be done, but there are a lot of committed people, many of whom work with us at DBEDT, DCCA and DLIR, who are up to the challenge.