On Mon., Oct. 1, Honolulu Civil Beat reported on the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s transfer of $600,000 to the Affordable Hawai‘i Coalition PAC, a political action committee formed in opposition to the proposed state constitutional amendment to give the legislature the power to implement a surcharge on investment property to support public education. The contribution does yet not appear on the political action committee’s Campaign Spending Commission report which lists contributions until Sept. 26 totalling almost $155,000.
Affordable Hawai‘i states on its website that the constitutional amendment will raise the cost of living for everyone, and the amendment “would give the legislature the authority to create one of the largest tax increases in Hawai‘i’s history,” despite the fact that the constitutional amendment includes no specific language regarding types of properties or rates of the surcharge – those terms would be crafted by legislators if the ballot question is approved by voters in November.
“We need to protect our small business community because they’re the ones who are going to be impacted,” chamber president Sherry Menor-McNamara told Civil Beat.
“It’s really disappointing that the Chamber of Commerce has decided to come out against funding public schools,” HSTA Maui Chapter vice president and teacher Lisa Morrison told me. “This ballot question is simply asking people to say it’s OK to make a property tax law that would fund education.”
“We would welcome them to come to the legislative session in the spring and bring their concerns to help make sure that the law gets crafted in such a way that there isn’t this penalty on the businesses,” she said. “Passing this constitutional amendment is not going to affect consumers; it’s just saying ‘yes, it’s ok for us to make a bill’ – that’s it.”
The news of Hawaii’s Chamber of Commerce funding of Affordable Hawaii Coalition PAC came the evening before teachers across Hawaii organized a walk-in protest on Tue., Oct. 2. “Hawaii teachers are joining what’s called the ‘red for ed’ movement around the country” to raise community awareness of the lack of funding in public schools, the Hawaii State Teachers Association stated. HSTA added, “Hawaii schools rank last in teacher pay and 45th in per pupil expenditures, adjusted for cost of living.”
“Specifically, our kids need smaller class sizes so they can get more individualized attention,” said Morrison, who participated in the walk-in at Maui High. “In order to get smaller class sizes you need more classes to put them in, and you need more comfortable classrooms for example with AC, and you need qualified teachers to put in front of the kids, and all of that takes money.”
HSTA has stated they are planning more demonstrations in support of the constitutional amendment and teacher funding; Morrison said the group will have an information booth at the County Fair.
Photo by Lisa Morrison