Local Connection: Taxing Select Properties for Schools?

Local Connection: Taxing Select Properties for Schools?
Updated: Sep. 4, 2018 at 2:50 PM HST
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The fight has begun over the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to surcharge investment properties to raise money for schools.

Last week, the counties sued saying the amendment amounts to a blatant over-ride of their constitutional right to set and collect property taxes as their primary source of income.

The supporters of the amendment – primarily HSTA and lawmakers who overwhelmingly approved it – say this is the only way to raise enough money to pay teachers adequately and improve schools.

Critics, who now also include the chamber of commerce, point out that the amendment being put to voters sets almost no limit on this new taxation power.

It leaves it up to the legislature all of the key questions: How large a tax? What kind of investment property could not be taxed? And what guarantees that lawmakers won't just cut other sources of funding to schools and shift it to this surcharge?

Very few people disagree that our schools and teachers don't just deserve more money – it is badly needed.

But is it a good idea to hand the legislature essentially a blank check to add taxes on commercial property?

It's unfortunate that this momentous decision will be sold to voters as a guaranteed way to improve schools when that could prove to be an empty promise.

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