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Letters to the Editor
Special session could reduce tax burdenThe recent optimistic Council on Revenues projection makes this a good time to focus our attention on ways to mitigate the tax burden for all taxpayers. The Lingle-Aiona administration supports several proposals that relieve the burden on struggling low-income and middle income persons and families.
One way is to cut taxes for those earning the least. Hawaii's net income tax standard deduction has not been adjusted for 20 years. The standard deduction is the amount that can be deducted from your wages and salaries to calculate your taxable income, which determines how much tax you pay. Cutting taxes by increasing the standard deduction would make our tax system fairer and more progressive by providing tax relief directly to low-income and struggling taxpayers.
Another way to provide tax relief to everyone in Hawaii is to expand the tax rate brackets to have the higher tax rates apply at higher income levels. Bracket expansion would essentially provide relief to all of Hawaii's taxpayers, regardless of income level.
Finally, the regressive effect of the general excise tax can be mitigated by providing tax credits or rebates for general excise taxes paid on purchases of basic necessities like food, medical services and nonprescription drugs.
By making these much-needed changes to our tax system during a special session of the Legislature, we could cut taxes for nearly everyone living in Hawaii, and provide even greater tax relief for those struggling to meet the high cost of living.
The state has the money to fund this tax relief. The relief is warranted. The time is right.
State Department of Taxation
Many questions remain about railIt looks like the general excise tax is going to be raised for rail. We still do not have the answers to many key questions.
» What exactly is to be built?
Many other questions need to be answered. When we have the whole picture a poll should be taken. Will people drive to a "park and ride" station, jump on a train, get off the train, then catch a bus to their final stop?
If the projected cost is $2 billion, get $3 billion ready to cover all the work-change orders. And we should expect the excise tax to be raised again for underestimating the actual cost of building and maintaining this project.
Even those supporting rail should demand to know more before committing to higher taxes.
Development could harm neighborhoodDowsett Highlands in Nuuanu Valley is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods on Oahu. Many of the homes were built in the 1920s and 1930s. If a 50-acre mountainside tract of vacant land is subdivided for development in the area, these homes and area residents might face catastrophic consequences.
Nuuanu Valley is known for its lush rainforests, ancient streams and historic auwai. When it rains, it pours, and there is usually a lot of water flowing down the hillside. This section of the valley typically receives between 90 and 125 inches of rain per year. If the proposed new subdivision is built, new drainage systems will have to be constructed to handle existing runoff as well as the additional runoff created when rainforests are replaced with streets, roofs and open yards.
These drainage systems, when designed to city standards, might only be required to handle smaller storm events that recur as frequently as every 10 years. When larger storm events occur, and they will, drainage systems will back up or overflow.
With these changes, existing landslide and flooding problems may escalate to catastrophic proportions. One house on the hillside is already shifting and sliding down the hill from runoff generated from a more recent mini-subdivision added to Dowsett Highlands.
Area residents do not want to see what happened along Woodlawn Street in Manoa Valley occur in Dowsett Highlands. We therefore ask the city to be vigilant and require the developer to spare no costs in constructing safeguards to protect area residents and their property. Remember, when there are windward and mauka showers, it is raining in Dowsett Highlands.
Westley K.C. Chun
Nuuanu Valley Association
People need to learn more about Akaka billThe Akaka bill is being set up for a vote in the U.S. Senate without the Hawaii public being fully informed by its sponsors as to its intent and implications. The bill is being presented through the news media essentially as a vehicle to provide federal recognition to native Hawaiians, which seems appropriate. But in fact, a major aspect of the bill is to continue the process of reconciliation with native Hawaiians in furtherance of the ill-conceived 1993 Apology Resolution, which without conclusive evidence implicates the United States in the 1893 overthrow, and to create a separate government for Hawaiians, which among other functions would administer federal benefit programs, including land claims.
The proposed native Hawaiian government would negotiate directly with the federal government but function in the same land area and jurisdiction as the state, posing a problem in administering public utilities, social programs, education and courts. A recent survey by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii indicated that only 20 percent of Hawaii's people approve of the proposed separate government.
Shipyard still critical to nation's defenseThe issue of closing the Pearl Harbor Shipyard has missed the main point: The next shipyard is a long way away. Imagine if, in late May 1942, the carrier USS Yorktown, crippled in the battle of Coral Sea, had been forced to make the long trip back to the U.S. mainland, evading Japanese submarines along the way, because a 1930s base-closing commission had shuttered the Pearl Harbor Shipyard? Instead, the carrier needed 90 days worth of repairs but the Pearl Harbor Shipyard had the Yorktown back at sea in 48 hours.
On June 4, 1942, aircraft from the Yorktown and her sister carrier, the Enterprise, met the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway, sinking four carriers and destroying 234 aircraft flown by Japan's best pilots. This marked the end of Japanese expansion in the Pacific, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
There is a lesson here and it should be an obvious one. The western Pacific remains a turbulent place, so Pearl Harbor Shipyard is still needed when a Yorktown comes limping in, needing urgent repairs at some critical point in our future.
Public servants are devoted to their jobsI was pleased to read your story on public school principals (Star-Bulletin, July 3).
As a high school principal, I can tell you that it's not the pay that keeps us at work. As the article points out, we are challenged by a wide and growing range of responsibilities, but we do it for the staff, the school and, above all, the students.
I also enjoyed your July 4 piece on the lifeguards, the unsung heroes of our island state. We take for granted their responsibility to risk their lives to save others.
From a "public servant," thank you for recognizing the working people who make Hawaii no ka oi.
Kapolei High School
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