HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The State Senate Monday approved a bill to ask voters to decide whether the state should be empowered to impose a surcharge on residential investment properties to help fund public education.
The Senate's 23 to one vote in favor of the Constitutional Amendment proposal comes after members of the State House unanimously approved the bill earlier this month.
"Every year we say education is a priority, but we don't do enough to improve chronic under funding of public education while Hawaii's children are falling behind and schools struggle to prepare students for 21st century jobs," said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
The surcharge would not apply to owner-occupants but instead is aimed at investment properties worth $1 million or more.
Rosenlee said, "Trump Towers was able to quickly sell out more than 400 units, with some condos selling for more than $10 million. Many wealthy people are using these properties to pad their own wealth. If these rich out-of-state investors can afford multi-million dollar properties, they can afford to pay taxes to help educate Hawaii's children."
As a result of lawmakers' votes, the measure for a constitutional amendment will automatically be on the ballot for Hawaii voters to decide in the general election on Nov. 6.
The HSTA says, Hawaii is the only state in the country that does not use some portion of property taxes to fund its schools, which results in the 50th State spending the lowest percentage of both state and local revenue toward education in the entire nation.
"The public should be assured that the Senate has no intention of taxing the homes you live in, that is homes for which resident owners receive a homeowner's exemption. Nor does the Senate intend to approve any surcharge on investment properties valued less than $1 million," said Senator Michelle Kidani, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education who introduced the bill.
Should voters pass the Constitutional amendment, the Legislature will have to revisit the issue to determine the parameters of the tax surcharge.