HLTA presents $35k to two Hawaii Island Homeless Agencies:
Last Thursday, the HLTA office and a handful of board members attended the Hawaii Island Chapter’s Charity Walk Grant Allocation Ceremony at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa after attending a board meeting on the island. During the reception, HLTA presented a total of $35,000 to two Hawaii Island non-profit agencies focused on servicing homelessness, in partnership with the Institute for Human Services (IHS) and the County of Hawaii.
Through funds from the Hawaii For Hawaii concert, IHS matched $10,000 with HLTA, and together we presented a total $20,000 to HOPE Services Hawaii Inc. to help fund their emergency shelters. HLTA also presented $15,000 to support the Hawai'i Rise Foundation for a certified kitchen at Na Kahua Hale O Ulu Wini, also known as Ulu Wini, a low-income Housing Project built by the County of Hawaii in 2011 in Kona. Joining me to make the presentations at Waikoloa were HLTA Chair Scott Ingwers, HLTA Hawaii Island Chapter Chair Steve Yannarell, and from the County government, Managing Director Wil Okabe, Council Chair Val Pointdexter, and County Prosecutor Mitch Roth.
If you were at last year’s General Membership Meeting, you may remember when HLTA made a $25,000 contribution to a non-profit group called Kauai Economic Opportunity in consultation with Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho at the GMM welcome reception. The year before that, HLTA in collaboration with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and the Institute for Human Services (IHS) donated $25,000 to a group called the Maui Family Life Center. This year we had similar discussions with Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim’s office and the Institute for Human Services, who both helped us identify these two well-deserved agencies on Hawaii Island.
These Neighbor Island Homelessness initiatives are all part of HLTA's conscious efforts to reflect the fact that we are a statewide organization and given the magnitude of the homeless problem, HLTA wants to help all our Island chapters whenever we can.
Charity Walk Allocations:
Congratulations to the Hawaii Island Chapter for distributing nearly $276,000 among 60 non-profit organizations at their allocation ceremony last Thursday, and to the Maui Chapter for distributing over $1,129,000 to 115 charities on Maui, Lanai, and Molokai on August 10. This week, Kauai will hold their allocation ceremony at the Kauai Marriott on September 7, and Oahu’s reception will take place on September 22.
Special Session Recap:
As many of you know the legislative special session came to a close last week Friday as the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives convened their third reading on measure SB4; the bill to decide the funding mechanism for the Honolulu rail system. This came on the heels of a much closer vote than anticipated before the joint committees of Finance and Transportation (8-6 vote in Finance and a 4-2 vote in Transportation). As you may recall before the same Bill went to the Senate floor for a final vote of 16-9, it barely made it out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee by a 6-5 vote. The final vote in the House was 31 to 15 with 5 members excused from the day’s proceedings. Bill SB4 was returned to the Senate un-amended and was sent to the Governor directly where he signed it into law yesterday.
SB4 snapshot: In order to fund the Honolulu rail project SB4 extends the current Honolulu GET Tax Use Surcharge for three additional years to 2030 and increases the transient accommodations tax by 1%, taking the new TAT rate to 10.25%, for years beginning January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2030. The additional 1% statewide TAT increase will be earmarked specifically to the mass transit special fund which will be administered by the department of budget and finance. Provisions also included in the measure involve an audit of HART, the addition of two non-voting members to the HART Board appointed by the Senate President and Speaker of the House, and making permanent the $103 million allocated to the counties from the collection of the TAT.
At the end of the day the votes may not have aligned the way we wanted as we worked tirelessly to keep the transient accommodations tax out of the equation. However, this is the first time ever that the visitor industry has been able to rally statewide as a single voice the way we did these past couple of months. Many legislators, government leaders, and business and labor organizations took note and have commented on the visitor industry’s engagement and visibility this legislative special session. We have also added some new partners who agree with our views of the danger of tapping into the TAT as a funding source for all things. I would like to send a special mahalo to all those that have contributed to the 1,850 industry signatures we have collected, to the individuals who testified at the public hearings, to the organizations who wrote letters and testimonies to the legislators, and to those who not only got involved but also encouraged their team to do so as well. We sent a reminder to our government leaders that we are the number one economic driver in the state and we are backed by large numbers.
Therefore, I would like to use this experience as a foundation to further enhance our advocacy efforts as an association and as an industry. This was just one major debate at the big square building directly impacting our industry. Government and politics are in perpetual motion and so we must stay vigilant as we are constantly facing measures that can either harm or benefit us. Over the next several months we will be working diligently at engaging the industry through our government affairs process and strengthening our voice across the state. The next legislative session begins on January 17, 2018 followed by elections in the fall where the plan is for our association and the hospitality industry to be actively engaged. It will be a busy year and I look forward to working with you to build upon the momentum that we have started. Stay tuned for more details of our government affairs agenda in the weeks ahead.
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