State supreme court throws tax amendment off ballot

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Supreme Court on Friday threw off the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would have established a surcharge on investment property to help fund public education.

The court unanimously ruled that the proposed amendment did not meet the state constitution’s requirement that amendments be clear and not misleading.


The Hawaii Constitution authorizes counties to levy property taxes. The amendment would have had Hawaii join 49 other states in using property taxes to finance public education.

The state’s four counties encompassing the Big Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu, along with the city of Honolulu, filed the complaint with the Supreme Court against the wording of the proposed amendment.

Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong praised the ruling, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

“Clearly the questions that were posed by the court showed that they had carefully considered the arguments of both parties — the state’s and the counties’ — as well as all of the cases cited in those briefs, and there were a lot of cases, and their questions were just spot on,” she said at a news conference.

County officials argued that the question’s wording is not clear enough for voters to understand that it would give additional taxing power to the Legislature. They also said it could hurt counties’ ability to raise revenue to fund services and infrastructure projects.

House of Representatives Speaker Scott K. Saiki criticized the court’s ruling. “It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court is not allowing the public to vote on this question after the Legislature vetted it over the past two years,” Saiki said.

Gov. David Ige issued a statement saying the court’s ruling “means we must keep searching for a way to support the dedicated teachers and staff who make a difference every day in classrooms around the state. I am committed to doing just that.”

The Hawaii State Teachers Association backed the proposed amendment, saying it would support teachers and underfunded schools. The state’s intent is to tax only second homes valued at more than $1 million, said Corey Rosenlee, the association president.


Rosenlee told the Star-Advertiser that he didn’t expect the Supreme Court to invalidate the ballot question.

“To be honest we are surprised and we’re shocked,” he said. “We did not anticipate that this would be the decision.”

  1. guest October 20, 2018 4:39 am

    Thank you Hawaii supreme court. Wake up Hawaii, time to throw these big tax and spenders out!

  2. angkoldoy October 20, 2018 6:11 am

    Also stay away, vote no (or yes depending on wording) for any measure that calls for a constitutional convention. Don’t worry about what the conservatives or liberals may propose. It is the multinational banking/financial institutions lurking behind the scenes that are trouble.

    1. KonaRich October 20, 2018 9:03 am

      We have a Con-Con now on the ballot and it’s worth taking a chance on a Yes vote, otherwise we will have 10 more years of what we have now. If your pleased with the way things are going now then vote NO. Thank God the con-am is gone. after the election every thing the elected officials said they would do for us goes back in a folder not to be seen until next election cycle. angkoldoy are you a Russian BOT?

      1. angkoldoy October 29, 2018 6:07 pm

        “…way things are going now…” refers to what?

  3. 4whatitsworth October 20, 2018 6:13 am

    Whew.. that was a scary power grab! The high tax and spend policies of Honolulu have largely failed they now have to grapple with a declining population and failing projects like the rail. Having one of the highest income taxes in the nation, taking our share of TAT, and increasing fees was not enough they wanted our property!

    This demonstrates the importance of a rational and honest judicial system.

  4. briala October 20, 2018 10:27 am

    “The state’s intent is to tax only second homes valued at more than $1 million, said Corey Rosenlee, the association president.”

    Well then the court is sure right that the amendment is not clear because that’s not at all what the amendment says.

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