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Business leaders oppose raising excise tax


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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2009

More than 100 members of Hawaii's business community and industry organizations gathered at the state Capitol rotunda yesterday to oppose raising the general excise tax and speak out against several bills that they say could hurt the state's economy if passed this Legislative session.

The coalition, which met with legislators prior to holding a press conference, said they oppose HB 952 and SB 1621, which have been termed the “;card check bills”; because they eliminate the need for secret ballot election for employees that are deciding whether or not to unionize.

By removing the secret ballot process, workers are more vulnerable to misinformation, intimidation and coercion by family and peers, said Alice Maluafiti, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. However, Hawaii's labor unions have wholeheartedly supported the card check bills.

“;We strongly support the purpose and intent of the proposed legislation to streamline union certification and give employees a voice at work,”; testified Nora A. Nomura, deputy executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

The business coalition also spoke out against HB 332, which has been termed the “;guaranteed bankruptcy”; measure by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. The bill requires a successor employer, which has just purchased or merged with an existing company of more than 100 employees, to retain the non-supervisory work force under most conditions.

“;How can a company be expected to acquire a business and then be told it has no flexibility?”; said Jim Tollefson, president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. “;In many cases, businesses are sold because they are faltering and need downsizing or a change in direction.”;

However, HB 332 provides needed job protection, said Guy Fujimura, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU Local 142.

Only about a dozen workers who were employed at the Naniloa Hotel in Hilo kept their jobs after the lease changed, Fujimura said. “;The bill protects jobs, but it provides for many exceptions and circumstances in which the employer would not be constrained,”; he said.

Hawaii's businesses and consumers will be affected if the bills take effect, said Monica Toguchi, whose family has run the Highway Inn for the past 62 years.

The coalition also urged state lawmakers not to balance the budget by raising the general excise tax because it said the cost of all goods and services will rise