HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial plan to raise taxes to improve schools and teacher pay continues to gain ground at the legislature. On Friday, Governor Ige seemed supportive of the idea.
"As we've looked at the needs…we know that we cannot meet the construction needs for all the schools that are required. We know we have difficulty meeting the operating costs. So I think it's an intriguing proposal. We'll see how far it gets in the legislative process," Gov. Ige said.
On Monday, the union that proposed the idea will flood the capitol district with thousands of teachers demanding better pay.
The rally is expected to be the biggest its ever had and the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) is hoping for two things: to secure a new statewide contract with raises to attract and retain teachers and to lobby for a constitutional amendment which would bring more money into the school system.
HSTA says Hawaii is last in the nation for spending money on school improvements and its teachers are the lowest paid after cost-of-living adjustments.
The union proposes the state establish an added tax on high-cost residential investment properties. It also wants a surcharge on hotel rooms, timeshares and vacation rentals. HSTA estimates the taxes could net about $500 million a year.
"Every day in Hawaii, 10,000 to 20,000 kids go to school and don't have a qualified teacher. That's wrong. We're robbing our future. We need to make sure that we give all of our keiki the schools they deserve," said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.
The proposal passed both the House and Senate Education Committees in the past week.
There are exemptions from the taxes. For example, the proposals would not tax people who own and live in their own houses. In addition, people who own and live in one house and own a second house which they rent out would also be exempt from the surcharge, according to a Senate amendment. Low-income households and seniors on a fixed income wouldn't have to pay the investment property surcharge either.
HSTA wants voters to decide on the proposal during the 2018 election.
On Monday from 9:20 a.m. to 11 a.m., Victoria Street and the two makai lanes of Beretania Street from Victoria Street to the Capitol building will be shut down to accommodate the marchers.
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