A Hawaii judge’s ruling ordering some online travel sites, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline, to pay some $150 million in overdue general excise taxes could mean an extra $20 million per year in taxes for the state.
The ruling by Tax Appeal Court Judge Gary W.B. Chang said the online travel companies owed approximately $110 million in unpaid taxes, plus interest of about $40 million on sales of more than $2.7 billion in Hawaii hotel rooms from 2000 through 2011, state officials said.
The companies had collected the money to cover both the general excise tax and the state’s hotel room tax, but didn’t file returns or pay the taxes to the state of Hawaii, state officials said. Chang ruled in October that the companies don’t have to pay the state’s transient accommodation tax on hotel rooms.
But in the ruling issued Friday, Chang noted that Hawaii’s G.E.T. is a tax imposed on businesses for the privilege of doing business in the state and that its broad nature included the sale of hotel rooms.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the ruling was “significant.”
“When I first came into office, I made this a top priority after I discovered that the previous administration had chosen not to pursue these taxes,” he said in a statement. “I asked the attorney general and the tax director to aggressively and relentlessly go after these taxes that were due and owing. The court’s ruling shows that we were right to pursue this.”
The online travel companies may appeal the ruling, while the state has the right to appeal Chang’s ruling on the hotel room tax.
HONOLULU – Governor Neil Abercrombie today reported that the elective surgery he underwent on Wednesday to address an existing shoulder injury was a success.
The Governor is in the recovery phase, which may require rescheduling of select events on Friday. He is attending to state business from his residence and expects to be back in the gym and office soon. In his brief absence, Lt. Gov. Briant Schatz has served as acting governor.
HONOLULU – Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o Monday became the first Hawai’i born and raised player to be invited to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Te’o was also the winner of the Butkus Award, which recognizes the top college linebacker. He was also awarded the Bronko Nagurski Award for his play on the field and his character both on and off the field. In response, Governor Neil Abercrombie issued the following statement:
“I want to congratulate Manti Te’o for the triple honor of receiving the Butkus Award and the Nagurski Award and being named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. The mission of the Heisman Trophy is to recognize outstanding college football players who exhibit excellence with integrity. Manti epitomizes great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.
“Manti is the heart and soul of an undefeated Notre Dame team. He’s an inspiration to all the people of Hawai’i, particularly to our youth as they dream and strive for excellence.
“I agree with his coach, Brian Kelly, who said that if Manti doesn’t win the Heisman, just cut to the chase and give all future awards to the offensive player of the year. Manti is a superb athlete and role model who has generated tremendous pride throughout our state and country. He is deserving of the Heisman.”
HONOLULU – Governor Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of more than $44 million for capital improvement projects (CIPs) statewide, including public schools, health facilities, transportation infrastructure and more.
“Since the start of 2012, my administration has released more than $885.8 million for CIPs, including these newly released funds, as a part of an economic strategy to address priority work while stimulating the economy and generating job opportunities for residents,” said Governor Abercrombie. “We’ve made significant progress. Our local economy is back on track. Credit rating agencies have taken notice. And, the state’s unemployment rate has continued to improve, falling in October to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.5 percent – a pre-recession level.”
Allotment of funds for the following priority projects, identified by members of the state Legislature, has been approved by the Governor:
· $3,500,000 – Various schools, statewide – Design, construction and required works of art for modifications at various schools to meet ADA accessibility guidelines; project will provide 1) student, staff and public accessibility to programs and/or facilities as required by the ADA for Waianae High School; and 2) accessibility to areas of school campuses that are typically visited by the public for Baldwin High School, Makaha Elementary School, and Aliamanu Middle School (Projects may include modifications to walkways, ramps, parking stalls, elevators, building interiors and exteriors to make them ADA compliant)
· $2,500,000 – Aikahi and Wahiawa Elementary Schools, Oahu – Improvements to drainage at Aikahi Elementary, and creation of student drop off area and additional parking at Wahiawa Elementary School
· $2,000,000 – Pookela Special Day Program, statewide – Design, construction, equipment and required works of art for four special education portable classrooms for the Pookela Special Day Program for autistic and developmentally disabled students
· $1,600,000 – Kohala High School, Hawaii Island – Design of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building, including ground/site improvements, equipment and appurtenances
· $800,000 – Waipahu Intermediate School, Oahu – Design funds to provide a new eight-classroom building that will address STEM/multi-media needs
· $3,300,000 – Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui – Design, construction and equipment for renovation of Imaging Department’s treatment rooms, physicians’ offices, patient care and public areas, and to accommodate new and replacement imaging equipment; improvements will maintain patient privacy and improve patient care
· $328,000 – Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, Kauai – Design and construction for work on walls and floors in the nursing units
· $8,010,000 – Kahului Airport, Maui – Additional design costs for the structural improvements and long-term rehabilitation to Runway 2-20
· $1,200,000 – Honolulu International Airport, Oahu – Construction to upgrade the radio communication infrastructure and antenna system, remove and replace the existing dispatcher console and install a new Wireless Broadcast Emergency Public Address system
· $600,000 – Kona International Airport at Keahole, Hawaii Island – Design for re-roofing of terminal buildings to prevent re-occurring leaks throughout the terminal
· $350,000 – Kahului Airport, Maui – Additional design funds to reconstruct the Taxiway A apron
· $200,000 – Kalaeloa Airport, Oahu – Construction to upgrade the radio communication infrastructure, antenna system, remove and replace the existing dispatcher console, and install a new Wireless Broadcast Emergency Public Address system
· $4,510,000 – Kaneohe Bay Drive, Oahu – Construction for rehabilitation of Kaneohe Bay Drive between Kamehameha Highway and Nanamoana Street to address the deterioration of the roadway; improvements will include reconstructing weakened pavement areas and shoulders, constructing new curbs, gutters, sidewalks and curb ramps, upgrading drainage facilities, and replacing and installing guardrails
· $1,160,000 (and $8,865,000 federal funds) – Hawaii Belt Road, Hawaii Island – Safety improvements near/at Laupahoehoe and Kaawalii Gulches to improve roadway drainage in the area and construct a friction overlay surface to minimize hydroplaning
· $306,000 – Piilani Highway, Maui – Additional construction to widen Ohukai Road on both approaches to highway; project will include constructing left turn storage lanes and relocating existing street lights, guardrails and wheelchair ramps
· $253,000 – Hana Highway, Maui – Additional construction for Phase 2 of the project to remove overhanging, protruding and unstable rocks from the slopes above highway to prevent rockfall
· $200,000 (and $800,000 federal funds) – Intelligent Transportation System, statewide – Planning for the development of an approved regional architecture phase of an envisioned Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for the Kauai, Maui and Hawaii highway districts
· $130,000 – Kohala Mountain Road, Hawaii Island – Additional design for road drainage improvements at mileposts 10.61, 12.88, 13.47, and 13.98; this project will install larger culverts to increase drainage capacity with headwalls constructed farther from the edge of the travelway
· $100,000 – Volcano Road, Hawaii Island – Additional construction in the vicinity of Kulani Road for installation of left-turn lanes, improvements and/or adjustments to the drainage system, streetlights and guardrails to current standards
· $96,000 (and $864,000 federal funds) – Honoapiilani Highway, Maui – Construction to upgrade highway lighting and improve traffic safety on highway at Kaanapali Parkway and Halelo Street
· $37,700 (and $339,300 federal funds) – Various locations, Oahu – Design for guardrail and shoulder improvements at various locations throughout Oahu to current design standards
· $500,000 – Honolulu Harbor Environmental and Development Services, Oahu – Planning for environmental and development services for a new Kapalama Container Facility to support expanding maritime activities in the harbor
· $7,122,411 – DAGS CIP project positions – Public Works Division project-funded staff positions for fiscal year 2013
· $1,789,334 – Hawaii Community Development Authority Community Development Districts, Oahu – Nineteen project-funded staff positions for fiscal year 2013
· $1,000,000 – Capital District Master Plan, Oahu – Planning to develop, implement and populate a space needs and building management information database, update the State Capital District Master Plan, and provide alternatives for civic center facilities at Department of Accounting and General Services-managed and new properties; work includes surveys of state office buildings and ancillary facilities in the Capital District and plans for future disposition of the Kinau Hale and Queen Liliuokalani buildings
· $1,000,000 – Correctional facilities, statewide – Planning for the orderly development of correctional facilities, including assessment of all Department of Public Safety correctional facilities to determine whether to renovate or construct new facilities for the future
· $650,000 – Honokohau Small Boat Harbor Improvements, Phase II, Hawaii Island – Creation of paved parking areas and roadways on the north side of the harbor, as well as water system and drainage improvements
· $500,000 – State Water Projects Plan Update, statewide – Updating of the State Water Projects Plan, which is a component of the Hawaii Water Plan mandated by the State Water Code, Chapter 174C, HRS, and conducting related studies specifically for the North Kona area of Hawaii Island (The State Water Projects Plan was last updated in 2003. Given the increase in both private and government developments and the water resource challenges that exist due to the complex geology and hydrology in West Hawaii, the need to update the plan and conduct necessary studies will be critical to identifying and meeting projected water demands.)
· $300,000 – Birkhimer Tunnel, Oahu – Additional construction to provide for the replacement of an emergency generator, structural modifications, and other related work
· $20,000 – Bond Memorial Public Library, Hawaii Island – Planning for a Phase 1 environmental site assessment prior to returning library site to the Department of Land and Natural Resources; the library is no longer in operation since the opening of the new North Kohala Public Library
HONOLULU – Governor Neil Abercrombie today issued the following statement regarding elections in the wake of the 2012 General Election, which resulted in significant long lines when several polling places on Oahu ran out of paper ballots.
The Governor’s office does not have authority in overseeing the Office of Elections, but Governor Abercrombie is compelled to advocate for changes that will help to ensure voter participation in elections. (Under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 11-1.6, the Chief Elections Officer is appointed by the Elections Commission. Under Section 11-7, all members of the Elections Commission are appointed by the Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, House Speaker and House Minority Leader.)
“This January, I will be proposing as part of my legislative package a measure to move our state toward 100 percent mail-in voting, which has been effective in other parts of the country. Moreover, absentee ballots have seen a steady increase and use over the last several elections, and there has been no evidence to question the accuracy and security of these ballots relative to traditional methods.
“I have also asked Attorney General David Louie to investigate the State Office of Elections and the circumstances that resulted in a shortage of paper ballots at numerous Oahu polling places on Nov. 6. This serious problem has tarnished the election process and eroded public confidence.
“The right to vote is one of our most cherished duties as U.S. citizens. Therefore, we must ensure that our voting process runs smoothly and efficiently.
“I agree with criticisms that the handling of election operations raises legitimate concerns. I do not plan to simply stand on the side and wait to see what the Office of Elections’ own review may bring. At a minimum, we must consider new technologies that can help bring our election process into the 21st Century.”
HONOLULU – During testimony by University of Hawai’i President MRC Greenwood before the Senate committee on accountability this afternoon, it was suggested that Governor Neil Abercrombie offered advice regarding the UH athletic director position. The following statement by the Governor is in response to media inquiries about the meeting that was mentioned by President Greenwood.
“I stated very clearly to President Greenwood that my sole concern was for fairness and even-handedness. I based this concern as the Governor as well as an alumnus and supporter of the University of Hawai’i. I also stressed that any and all decisions made in the wake of the concert failure ensure that all responsible parties be held to account.”
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