Lawmakers Recap Accomplishments as Legislature Adjourns
By Wendy Osher
Hawaiʻi lawmakers wrapped up decision making yesterday as the 27th state legislative session came to a close.
Prior to adjourning, House Speaker Joe Souki of Maui acknowledged the work of lawmakers and summarized the session’s accomplishments.
In the area of economic development, Rep. Souki said, lawmakers made permanent the current transient accommodations tax rate, and increased funding to aggressively market the state’s visitor industry as Hawaiʻi competes with other travel destinations.
He also emphasized a decision that keeps the current level of TAT funding for counties saying the support will provide “fiscal continuity.”
While the state had to borrow from the Rainy Day and Hurricane Relief Funds during the past economic crisis, Rep. Souki said lawmakers kept a promise that when the economy improved, the funds would be returned.
“Not only are we keeping that promise, we are providing additional money to recapitalize those funds. And we have taken a big step in addressing the unfunded liability of our public workers,” said Rep. Souki in his closing remarks.
During the address, he also address the decision to repeal the controversial Public Land Development Corporation saying, “we listened to the resounding voice of the people and moved quickly to repeal.”
In an earlier announcement leading up to the conclusion of session, House lawmakers released a list of key items that gained passage, saying the session focused on long-term needs of the state.
In the other chamber, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim reflected on the session saying, “We are attempting to become more efficient in delivering government services through upgrading our antiquated IT infrastructure.”
She continued comments in a media statement saying, “Through refining a number of policies, government organizations also become more transparent and accountable to the public they serve.”
Senate leaders noted that the State Budget Bill was passed more than one week before the final day of the 2013 session, allowing the body to assess other bills pending in conference committees.
In addition to “improving” delivery of government services, lawmakers also made appropriations to begin payment on unfunded health benefit liabilities, passed bills relating to clean energy and improved food sustainability, and approved of increases in income tax credits for the production industry.
“The bills we passed lay the groundwork for diversifying our economy by making strategic investments in the agriculture and in the film industries.” said Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria in a press release.
The bills now head to the governor for his consideration.