Panel backs lower taxes, affordable housing
Gov. Lingle's economic commission releases its recommendations for public review
Cutting taxes, realigning Hawaii's educational system and building up to 6,000 affordable homes at Kalaeloa are some of the draft recommendations from a bipartisan commission appointed this summer by Gov. Linda Lingle.
Don Horner, president and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank and chairman of the Economic Momentum Commission, said the recommendations are now available for public discussion.
In all, the 30-member commission came up with 35 recommendations in the areas of housing, taxation, education, work-force development, tourism, energy, agriculture, health care, the environment and native Hawaiian issues.
Lingle formed the commission to recommend ways for the state to sustain its economic growth and quality of life.
Housing and building a more capable work force were critical issues for Horner.
"We sincerely want to get public input into the process," he said. "We are going to consider those recommendations and I am hopeful we can make a major impact in housing and work force development.
"It is tragic that our children cannot have the prospect of owning a home. It is very significant in trying to recruit and retain our work force when our middle class does not have the American dream of a home as a prospect."
The commission supported the planned $650 million redevelopment of the Kakaako waterfront, overseen by the state Hawaii Community Development Authority. Horner said the commission recommends that the HCDA, because it also controls Kalaeloa, consider the Leeward area for housing.
The recommendation calls for a 500-acre parcel in a "master planned community to include mix-use live/ work/play design, a convenient connector to the planned mass transit system and ample green space."
"One hundred percent of the homes would be owner-occupant and work force affordable," Horner said.
In the area of taxes, Horner said that up to half of state's growing surplus, now estimated at more than $600 million, should be returned to taxpayers.
Noting that the state constitution calls for a rebate when the state runs a surplus, Horner said the commission is considering a moratorium on the excise tax collected on food and drugs.
"The tax reduction would be applied to all consumers equally but the reduction would have the added benefit of lowering the cost of living proportionally more for the lower-income earner," Horner said.
The time and date for public hearings have not been set, but information will be available on the commission's Web page.