Potential for progress this legislative season

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By Keli‘i Akina

Photograph by Charley Myers


The 2023 Hawaii Legislature is now in session, and for organizations just like the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, this is without doubt one of the busiest occasions of the yr. 

In previous periods, my Institute colleagues and I’ve usually spent extra time making an attempt to cease dangerous concepts than see good ones make it to the end line. This yr, nevertheless, we’ve got excessive hopes for a couple of concepts that might make an actual distinction for our state. 

Specifically, we’ve got been advancing particular reforms to assist decrease the price of dwelling, enhance the availability of housing and enhance healthcare entry for the folks of Hawaii — and it seems possible that some, if not all, of those proposed reforms will likely be warmly acquired.

Concerning extra housing, the hot button is to cut back Hawaii’s land-use and zoning laws, which research present are considerably associated to housing shortages and better costs.

Keli‘i Akina

When it comes to land use, the Legislature might reform the state Land Use Fee’s permit-approval course of, which provides to the time and prices of homebuilding. One repair can be to lighten the LUC’s allowing docket by growing the variety of acres that counties are allowed to rule on. At present the restrict is 15 acres. Something bigger in the intervening time is as much as the LUC.

Zoning codes, in the meantime, are a county operate, however the state can assist body how they’re utilized. For instance, the Legislature might require that the counties permit extra multi-unit houses resembling duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. It additionally might place restrictions on so-called inclusionary zoning laws, which traditionally have held again smaller, mid-range housing developments. 

Lastly, the Legislature might assist nonprofits resembling faculties and hospitals with their recruitment and housing points by making it simpler for establishments to construct housing on their very own lands.

Within the realm of healthcare, one of many largest issues in the intervening time is Hawaii’s perpetual scarcity of docs, nurses and different healthcare employees. 

Lawmakers might tackle this by permitting out-of-state license holders to apply in Hawaii — just like what we skilled underneath Gov. David Ige’s emergency orders through the coronavirus disaster. This might be achieved unilaterally or by becoming a member of the interstate compacts for physicians, nurses and different medical professionals, by which every member state acknowledges the licenses of all the opposite member states. 

Licensing, nevertheless, is simply a part of the issue. We additionally have to make Hawaii a friendlier state for personal apply docs. Meaning taking a tough have a look at the state’s common excise tax, which makes it troublesome for personal practices to outlive, particularly in the event that they take Medicare, Medicaid or TRICARE sufferers. 

For the previous few months, the Grassroot Institute has been working a marketing campaign to exempt medical providers from the final excise tax, and now could be the right time for the Legislature to behave. Not solely would such an exemption assist appeal to extra docs to our state, it additionally would decrease healthcare prices for Hawaii residents.

Talking of taxes and drugs, we’ve got a prescription for the Legislature in the case of taxes and the funds, and it’s taken immediately from the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no hurt. 

In different phrases, this isn’t the time to contemplate tax hikes of any sort. The state is swimming in extra revenues and has no want for extra. With so many Hawaii residents struggling to make ends meet, lawmakers as an alternative needs to be methods to chop taxes.

As well as, we’d prefer to see a balanced funds that features no revenue-draining boondoggles, no new borrowing and no profligate spending. Perhaps even give slightly little bit of the state’s anticipated $3 billion surplus again to the folks, maybe after bolstering the state’s wet day fund and addressing its unfunded liabilities.

My sense is that these are all sensible and politically palatable concepts that will convey down housing prices, strengthen healthcare entry and, basically, decrease our ridiculously excessive value of dwelling. Not would we’ve got to fret about our household, buddies and neighbors leaving the islands for better alternatives elsewhere.

If the Legislature embraces these concepts, we will likely be properly on our solution to making Hawaii a spot by which we are able to all dwell and thrive.

Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.