APEC reimbursement angers business owners

John Carroll
John Carroll
Senator Glenn Wakai
Senator Glenn Wakai

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - APEC is long gone but the debate lingers.  Tonight dueling arguments on whether expenses should be reimbursed for state departments but not small businesses.

Some small businesses are already planning to sue over the money they say they lost during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in November.  Now to hear Governor Neil Abercrombie wants to use state general fund money to reimburse state departments frustrates the owners even more.

State senators in the Ways and Means Committee moved along a plan to reimburse seven state departments a total of $2.7 million for services rendered during APEC.  It covers things like security, overtime and planning.  The seven departments include the Department of Public Safety, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Accounting and General Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Health, and Department of the Attorney General.

But small business owners are mad because they won't be getting any money back for the losses they suffered the week of APEC when they say government shut them down by blocking customers from getting to their stores.

"What's the most interesting to me of all is that the guys that have lost money in APEC will be paying taxes that will be going to this reimbursement, and if there is anything unfair that certainly is," said John Carroll, the attorney who is representing the business owners in a lawsuit.  "You just cannot go out willy-nilly and basically start taking people's businesses away or diminishing their ability to make money because you have some major plan in mind and so far I haven't seen any major effect other than publicity for politicians."

"I find their proposition ridiculous," said State Senator Glenn Wakai, (D) Aiea, Kalihi, Salt Lake.

Senator Wakai says the government invested nearly $50 million in the Convention Center budget for fiscal year 2011.  He says those surrounding businesses are the biggest beneficiaries of that investment.  So while businesses may have been one bad week there are plenty of other profitable weeks.

"When we have the dental convention and doctor's convention we don't close down the streets and they greatly impact from the 10,000 to 12,000 people that are right there on their front doorstep so I wish they would not clamor so much about that one instance," said Sen. Wakai.

He asks should those same small business owners complaining about APEC week pay a higher tax the rest of the year because they profit from being next to the convention center.

"There's an argument they benefit more greatly than other businesses in the Kalihi, Salt Lake, Waipahu and Hawaii Kai areas, so maybe they should pay a higher tax.  That's a ridiculous proposition but their proposition is just as ridiculous," said Sen. Wakai.

Furthermore the government can't reimburse everyone when business is impacted.

"For example when we do street repaving, we might need to close a street for a period of time to execute our services. But you know we don't directly reimburse for loss of business," said State Senator David Ige, (D) Ways and Means Committee Chair.

"The real difference is the state provided direct services to support hosting APEC," said Sen. Ige. "The departments fronted the money to provide the services because we had to and all we're trying to do with this measure is restore the budgets of those departments that are most affected."

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