House Speaker asks to lift hotel taxUPDATED 8:03 PM HST Jan 15, 2014Video Transcript
The 28th session of the state legislature opens with several proposals that may impact your pocket book. We have TEAM COVERAGE tonight... andrew @ wxwall, cruzer @ sideset KITV-4's Catherine Cruz is following developments in the Senate, but we begin with Andrew Pereira who is covering the House. Andrew? Well, Perhaps the loudest noise was made by House Speaker Joe Souki who laid out various proposals... from marijuana dispensaries, to lifting the cap on the counties' share of the hotel room tax AND taxing SOME pensioners at a higher rate. After welcoming back former representatives who served since statehood, House Speaker Joe Souki called on current members to be visionaries. REP. JOE SOUKI: "IT'S EASY TO TALK ABOUT VISION, IT IS MUCH HARDER TO TURN VISION INTO REALITY." But in a year where voters go to the polls, Souki's vision on taxes may be difficult to push through. The speaker proposed taxing pensioners who earn a net income of $100,000 or more at a higher rate. Gov. Neil Abercrombie was quickly shot down when he outlined a similar plan shortly after taking office. REP. JOE SOUKI: "THERE'S A POSSIBLILITY SOME YEARS BACK THAT SAID WE COULD RAISE ABOUT $17 MILLION, POSSIBLY MORE. AND SO, WE WILL HAVE A DEBATE ON IT, TO SEE THE FAIRNESS OF IT ALL AND HOW MANY PEOPLE WOULD BE AFFECTED BY IT." Souki stopped short of calling for the legalization of marijuana, but said in a state that already has medical pot, dispensaries are a natural progression. REP. JOE SOUKI: "I THINK WE NEED TO FIX THAT GAP IN THE LAW BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE." Souki's 17 minute speech also contained a carrot for county mayors. The speaker proposed lifting the cap on the counties' share of the hotel room tax, which currently stands at $93 million. Honolulu receives the lion's share at $41 million. KIRK CALDWELL: "WE DO A GREAT JOB AND WE BELIEVE WE NEED MORE REVENUE TO ENSURE THAT WE CONTINUE THAT JOB." Souki also proposed taxing internet sales, and says Hawaii's improving economy could allow for SOME tax relief. He wants higher state income tax brackets to sunset on schedule in 2015. That's something the seven republicans in the House CAN support. REP. BOB MCDERMOTT: "I THINK THE TAX RELIEF IS A GOOD ONE." Although Hawaii's economy IS improving, the state still has about $20 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities for health and pension benefits. AARP State Director Barbara Kim Stanton says she's "shocked and greatly disappointed" in the speaker's proposal to tax SOME pensioners at a higher rate.