JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Many Aloha Airlines employees wore shirts that bore a clear message yesterday during a rally outside the Bankruptcy Court on Bishop Street. Aloha Airlines ended 61 years of service, leaving more than 1,900 employees without jobs.
Lawmakers give no gift to Aloha
There is no emergency state legislation available to help restart Aloha Airlines.
Legislators and Gov. Linda Lingle tried to help the shuttered airline, but Rep. Kirk Caldwell, Democratic leader, said late yesterday that there were no more moves left.
"The bottom line is Aloha needs cash to pay debts, and it is going to be extremely difficult," Caldwell (D, Manoa) said.
At a morning news conference, Lingle said the state had prepared to fight the closing in court, but warned both Aloha employees and supporters that there was little more the state could do.
"I don't want to hold out any false hopes. In the long term, the biggest impact will be on the employees and their families.
"We are going to do whatever we can to help these employees and their families," Lingle said.
The Legislature is still moving a bill that Aloha had requested three years ago to help with taxes on jet fuel sales, but it now appears to be largely irrelevant to the Aloha situation.
The Senate gave final approval to a separate measure to exempt all interisland air carriers from paying the state's general excise and use taxes on jet fuel.
"It's time that we tried to assist all of our interisland carries because they are in a situation where the fuel taxes are making up an enormous part of their losses in this market, and they are very vital to our state," said Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena).
The measure, House Bill 2860, passed by a vote of 21-2 with Republican Sens. Gordon Trimble and Sam Slom voting no.
"We ought to treat all modes of transportation the same," said Trimble (R, Downtown-Waikiki). "It's not just an issue for our airlines; this is an issue for all modes of transportation.
"If you want to do it for one, we should do it for all."
A public hearing is scheduled for today on another proposal aimed at assisting airlines in Hawaii. The measure, being proposed as a Senate amendment to HB 509, would provide loan guarantees on up to 90 percent of the principal balance of a loan made by a private bank to a Hawaii air carrier.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said that with only five weeks left in this legislative session, there is little that can be done but that in the future the state might want to explore some ways to regulate airlines.
Star-Bulletin reporter B.J. Reyes contributed to this story.