HONOLULU (AP) — Voters this year will have the opportunity to decide if Hawaii should establish a surcharge on investment property to help fund public education.
State senators approved a bill Monday that puts the issue in voters’ hands.
Currently, the Hawaii Constitution authorizes counties to levy property taxes. If voters approve the amendment, Hawaii would join 49 other states in using property taxes to finance public education.
The Legislature, however, would have to revisit the issue to determine the parameters of the tax surcharge if the amendment is approved.
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“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. “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.”
Democrat state Sen. Michelle Kidani of Oahu, who introduced the bill on behalf of the association, said the “public should be assured that the Senate has no intention of taxing the homes” of residents with a homeowner’s exemption.
“Nor does the Senate intend to approve any surcharge on investment properties valued less than $1 million,” Kidani said. “Further, no consideration has ever been given to a surcharge on commercial properties. The intent is and always has been to focus on residential properties.”