Battle over constitutional amendment heats up as state’s highest court to hear challenge

The two sides held dueling news conferences to make their case.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell speak with opponents of the...
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell speak with opponents of the constitutional amendment.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Oct. 4, 2018 at 11:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The battle over a constitutional amendment that would increase taxes on investment properties to help fund education is headed for the state Supreme Court.

Oral arguments over whether the language on the ballot is too vague will be on Oct. 18.

The proposed constitutional amendment, set to go before voters on Nov. 6, reads: “Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

At dueling news conferences Thursday, opponents and supporters of the proposal laid out their case — and accused the other side of deception.

The four counties are seeking to block the amendment.

“It was such a ridiculous disastrous proposal for the people not the county government the people of this land including businesses,” said Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim.

The teachers union and supporters, meanwhile, say schools need more money for salaries, recruiting and retention, special education and facilities.

“If they don’t believe that we shouldn’t be funded, they are not supporting us,” said Mitzie Higa, a former teacher.

Opponents urging a “no” vote believe the amendment could lead to an increase on all property taxes, impacting businesses, homeowners and renters.

“With rent it keeps on increasing, it’s going to be very difficult to stay here,” said Chelsie Teanio, who rents a townhome in Mililani.

If voters approve the amendment in the general election, state lawmakers would need to draft the specific details.

“We will be putting in language that is specifically going for second homes over $1 million and that has been the intent of the legislature in the many years that we’ve pursued this,” the teachers union said.

Voters will be hearing a lot more about this — with more than $1 million committed by the two sides to their campaigns.

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