Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono, Bill Nelson (D-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prevent American taxpayers from having to foot the bill as a result of settlement negotiations between the U.S. Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase over the bank’s mortgage lending practices in the lead up to the financial crisis. While the details of the settlement are not final, numerous media reports have indicated that absent clear guidelines from the Justice Department, JPMorgan could potentially write off nearly a third of the settlement’s costs.
“Too many American families and communities are still fighting to recover from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Hirono said. “It’s deplorable that banks like JPMorgan may be able to deduct more than a quarter of penalties on what is meant to be relief to those affected, and I urge Attorney General Holder to stand firm and fight for taxpayers and middle class families.”
Under a tentative settlement between JPMorgan and the Justice Department, the bank would pay $13 billion over charges that it engaged in questionable practices leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. However, reports suggest that JPMorgan may be able to claim as much as $4 billion, or roughly 30 percent, of the settlement as a tax deduction—meaning taxpayers would be subsidizing the bank’s penalties at a time when federal priorities like education, clean energy, infrastructure and other job creating investments are facing budget cuts. In addition, Hirono and her colleagues urged Holder to expand monitoring to ensure that affected homeowners see the full benefit of the funds that are reportedly being directed to consumer relief.
The letter, signed by Hirono and her colleagues reads in part, “Allowing major corporations to write off penalties for breaking the law and harming the public is impossible to justify to taxpayers. Fines and penalties are intended not just to compensate the public, but also to serve as deterrents to others who might break the law in the future. We urge the Department of Justice to ensure the final settlement is clear about the tax treatment of the entire settlement amount and explicitly prohibits the tax deductibility of such payments.”
HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie is in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Hawaii Congressional Delegation and former colleagues. Today, he spoke with White House officials and met with Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. He plans to meet with Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard tomorrow, as well as with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Before departing for our nation’s capital, the Governor spoke with all four mayors regarding their collective concerns about federally funded programs and employee positions throughout the state. The Governor’s intent is to form a coordinated effort and ensure that Hawaii is well protected from the residual effects of the shutdown.
Gov. Abercrombie stated:
“I am pleased that Congress has finally reached an agreement that will allow the federal government to fully operate again. Like other states and counties, Hawaii was placed in a fiscally vulnerable position where benefits, programs and jobs were on the line. We continue to monitor the situation hour by hour and day by day.
“Fortunately, the State of Hawaii has seen signs of our economy rebounding and, due to prudent management by this administration, we were equipped to weather the three weeks of the government shutdown. However, we do not want these circumstances to arise again, putting our progress in jeopardy. Since this ‘new deal’ will only be in place for a short term, we must remain vigilant regarding our finances. I will continue to voice our concerns on behalf of the state and the counties, and work with our congressional delegation.”
With the federal government shutdown now in its third week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will depart for Washington, D.C., today to work with Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation and former colleagues on the Hill on the continuation of federally funded services and programs.
Currently, Gov. Abercrombie’s schedule includes meetings with Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono on Wednesday, followed by meetings with Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard on Thursday.
Gov. Abercrombie has spoken with each of the four mayors regarding concerns about federally funded programs and employee positions in their respective counties, and he will include their input in discussions in Washington. The intention is to form a coordinated effort by county, state and federal levels of government to address the issues as they arise.
This trip is an addition to the Governor’s personal travel to the East Coast that had been previously arranged.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui will be Acting Governor during the Governor’s travel time. Gov. Abercrombie is expected to return to the Islands on Oct. 20.
Washington, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced today the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will lift a ban on Hawaii Sharwil avocado shipments to the mainland. Earlier this year, Hirono wrote and sent a letter – signed by each member of Hawaii’s congressional delegation – urging the USDA to lift its 1992 ban, arguing that numerous scientific studies have found that the avocados prove to be a very poor host for the fruit flies USDA is trying to prevent from coming to the mainland. Since sending the letter, Hirono has worked closely behind the scenes with avocado farmers, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the USDA to lobby for the ruling.
“This USDA ruling will directly benefit Hawaii farmers and our economy,” said Hirono. “The new rule — advocated by Hawaii’s congressional delegation since 1992 — will finally allow our local producers to sell avocados to the mainland, opening up a number of new markets for these delicious, Hawaii-grown products. Advancing local food has long been a cornerstone of my push to make our state and economy more sustainable, and I’m very appreciative the USDA has made this critical ruling.”
Text of Hirono’s letter can be found below.
The 1992 discovery of invasive oriental fruit fly larvae in an avocado packing house in Hawaii led the USDA to institute a shipping ban on Hawaii’s Sharwil avocados unless shipments underwent extreme measures that destroyed the quality of the product. Since the ban went into effect, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Hawaii avocado growers and the Congressional delegation have sought to repeal the ban, setting up multiple safeguards to prevent the spread of the fruit flies. In response to the request of the late Senator Inouye, the USDA convened two science panels in 2004 and 2005 bringing together the best science and scientists to reexamine shipping protocols. These studies clearly demonstrated Hawaii Sharwil avocados were poor hosts for oriental fruit flies and therefore did not deserve the extreme shipping protocols enforced by the USDA.
Known for its unique, buttery taste, Sharwil avocados are produced on approximately 280 Hawaii farms, primarily on Hawaii Island. Prior to the shipping ban, Hawaii’s Sharwil avocados were expected to effectively compete with imported foreign avocados, due to the fruit’s quality and early growing season. It is expected Hawaii avocado farmers will begin shipping their product to the mainland later this fall.
You can read USDA’s ruling here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/09/12/2013-22205/interstate-movement-of-sharwil-avocados-from-hawaii.
Honolulu, HI – Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced that $800,000 awarded to the County of Maui from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is now available for the county’s use. The county originally received a competitive grant award last year to build ten shelters in high-impact locations in Kahului, Wailuku and Kihei. These shelters will be accessible for riders with disabilities.
“This funding is critical to improving the transportation infrastructure on Maui,” Hirono said. “These ten shelters will be placed in high-impact locations, helping address the growing ridership of Maui Bus. All Maui residents, especially riders with disabilities, deserve to wait safely and comfortably for public transportation.”
The grant will create four shelters in Kahului, four in Wailuku and two in Kihei. This competitive grant is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bus Livability Initiative to expand public transportation access nationwide.
Washington, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono praised President Obama’s announcement today that he is awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Senator Daniel K. Inouye. The award is one of the highest civilian awards bestowed in the United States, along with the Congressional Gold Medal, which Inouye previously received for his World War II service as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Inouye has also received the U.S. military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
“Mahalo to President Obama for recognizing Dan Inouye’s life of service with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of our nation’s highest civilian honors,” Hirono said. “Senator Inouye deeply cared about Hawaii and our nation, and his many accomplishments will improve the lives of generations to come . Although he carried himself with humility and often deflected credit, there is no doubt his work laid the foundations of modern Hawaii. While no one will ever replace Senator Inouye, we can all honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to serving and strengthening our communities and nation.”
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