4 former governors weigh in on controversial constitutional amendment

A new TV spot will hit Hawaii’s airwaves Monday.
These four governors have voiced opposition to the controversial amendment.
These four governors have voiced opposition to the controversial amendment.(Affordable Hawaii Coalition Pac.)
Updated: Oct. 15, 2018 at 5:06 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An unprecedented new television ad featuring heavy hitters in Hawaii politics is boosting attention for those opposing the constitutional amendment that would boost taxes on investment properties to bolster funding for Hawaii’s schools.

In the commercial spot paid for by the Affordable Hawaii Coalition, former governors George Ariyoshi, John Waihe’e, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie appear in a conference call-like setting, all stating their opposition to the proposal.

The ballot question voters will see on their general election ballots 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?”

Supporters say the tax would only apply to the wealthy and provide much needed funds for education.

“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 previously told Hawaii News Now.

But opponents of the issue say wording is too vague and will only raise the cost of living in Hawaii.

“Well if you’re a renter, you’re going to get smashed. In fact everyone is going to get hurt,” Abercrombie said in the ad. Cayetano added, “It’s a blank check for raising taxes.”

The spot goes on to point out that the amendment will lead to being taxed twice — once by the city and once by the state — and that “there’s no guarantee the money is going to reach the classroom,” Ariyoshi said before calling it a “bad deal.”

Colleen Rost-Banik, who represents Hawaii scholars for education and social justice, says she was surprised and disturbed by the new ad.

She says voters shouldn't listen to former leaders who are responsible for underfunded schools and unaffordable housing.

"If they really were actually doing something for the people of Hawaii then I think our state would really look a lot different,” says Rost-Banik.

She believes the amendment will, targeting new taxes on out-of-state investors will actually reduce the cost of housing over all.

Labor Economists Lawrence Boyd say non residents snatching up properties is a problem, “You have to stop home prices from rising and the easiest way of doing that is to begin cutting off this out of state demand.”

Earlier in the month, teachers canvassed the community to try to drum up support as both sides have spent thousands trying to persuade voters to their side.

On Monday, the Hawaii State Teachers Association will hold a press conference to address what they call are the misconceptions about the constitutional amendment.

A coalition of 120 UH researchers and professors will be on hand to debunk the four main so-called myths brought up by opponents. The myths include the Department of Education being adequately funded; More funding will not lead to improved education; Higher property taxes will adversely affect Hawaii’s economy and local people’s lifestyles; and public school funding only affects parents with children in the public schools.

Voters will make the final call on the amendment in the Nov. 6 General Election.

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