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Is Hawaii's Hotel Room Tax Law Obsolete?
With tax collections falling behind expectations, State lawmakers are pressuring the tax department to increase effort to collect uncollected taxes from internet sales.* In 2015 the State Attorney General’s Office scored a “major” victory when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that online travel companies (OTCs) are required to pay Hawaii’s general excise tax (GET) on their hotel bookings. Subsequently, the Tax Appeal Court ordered OTCs to pay $53.1 million in back general excise taxes plus interest to the state.
*Source: Honolulu Star Advertiser, “Collection of online taxes pushed,” January 29, 2017.
The Exorbitant Cost of Collecting Honolulu’s Rail Surcharge Tax
Act 247, SLH 2005, granted counties the authority to impose a county surcharge of no more than 0.5% on gross income that is subject to the State’s GET [General Excise Tax] at the rate of 4.0% to fund county public transportation systems... The City and County of Honolulu was the only county to adopt the surcharge, which took effect on January 1, 2007. The State keeps 10.0% of the collections from the county surcharge as administrative costs, and Honolulu County receives the remaining 90.0% of the collections.
Hawaii’s State Government has unnecessarily profited from the Honolulu rail project. It is time for State lawmakers to rethink the 10% administrative fee. Right now, it is exorbitant. A more reasonable fee is between 0.5% and 1.0%.
UHERO Brief: An Economic and GHG Analysis of LNG in Hawaii
Hawaii currently meets the majority of its electricity needs through oil-fired generation – causing rates to be nearly four times the national average. In response to rising oil prices and in line with State-led action combating climate change, Hawaii is aggressively pursuing alternative sources of energy for its electric sector. Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) states that utilities must meet 40% of electricity sales with renewable sources of energy by the year 2030; however, the remaining 60% can come from fossil fuels. Lower natural gas prices as a result of the “shale gas revolution” is in part why the State and key stakeholders are deliberating importing large amounts of natural gas in liquefied form (liquefied natural gas or LNG) for use in the electric sector.
This study builds upon past Hawaii-based LNG studies and extends the analysis by assessing both the macroeconomic and electricity sector impacts of using natural gas for power generation. We draw upon two recent studies, by Facts Global Energy (2012) and Galway Energy Advisors (2013) for price estimates. In addition to economic outcomes, this study estimates GHG emissions impacts as well as qualitatively discusses other environmental impacts related to the extraction of natural gas.
Read the full report here
The Growing Importance of Tourism in the Global Economy and International Affairs
For tourism-dependent countries and destinations, tourism’s share of GDP can exceed twice the world average. Today, international tourism receipts exceed $1 billion per year in some 90 nations. Worldwide, domestic tourism is typically several times larger. Tourism truly has become a global economic and social force.
- by Carl Bonham and James Mak
Full Published Article: Bonham, Carl, and Mak, James. "The Growing Importance of Tourism in the Global Economy and International Affairs." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 22 July 2014.
Brief: Should we increase Hawaii's minimum wage?
A higher minimum wage is unlikely to accomplish the stated goal of raising the living standards of the working poor. And given Hawaii’s highly service oriented economy, the negative impact of an increased minimum wage may have a larger impact than in other states.
Tax Credit Incentives for Residential Solar Photovoltaic in Hawai‘i
Solar photovoltaic (PV) tax credits are at the center of a public debate in Hawai‘i. The controversy stems largely from unforeseen budgetary impacts, driven in part by the difference between the legislative intent and implementation of the PV tax credits. HRS 235-12.5 allows individual and corporate taxpayers to claim a 35% tax credit against Hawaii state individual or corporate net income tax for eligible renewable energy technology, including PV. The policy imposes a $5,000 cap per system, and excess credit amounts can be carried forward to future tax years. Because the law did not clearly define what constitutes a system or restrict the number of systems per roof, homeowners have claimed tax credits for multiple systems on a single property. In an attempt to address this issue, in November 2012, temporary administrative rules define a PV system as an installation with output capacity of at least 5 kW for a single-family residential property. The new rule does not constrain the total number of systems per roof, but rather defines system size and permits tax credits for no more than one sub-5 kW system. In other words, it is possible to install multiple 5 kW systems and claim credits capped at $5,000 for each system. There is an additional 30% tax credit for PV capital costs at the federal level. There is no cap for the federal tax credit and excess credits can be rolled over to subsequent years.
Statewide Economy and Electricity-Sector Models for Assessment of Hawai‘i Energy Policies
This paper uses both a "top-down" and "bottom-up" economic model to asses the cost and greenhouse implications of various energy and environmental alternatives. The Hawai‘i Computable Generable Equilibrium Model (H-CGE) is a “top-down,” economy-wide model that captures the interaction between both producers and consumers, including full price effects between sectors. The Hawai‘i Electricity Model (HELM) is a “bottom-up” representation of Hawai‘i’s electricity sector. The dynamic optimization model solves for the least-cost mix of generation subject to satisfying demand, regulatory requirements, and system constraints. The models are fully integrated in respect to the electricity sector, where overall economic conditions determine electricity demand and, subsequently, the type of electricity generation has economic impact.
An Assessment Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions-Weighted Clean Energy Standards
Published in the journal Energy Policy, this paper quantifies the relative cost-savings of utilizing a greenhouse gas emissions-weighted Clean Energy Standard (CES) in comparison to a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Using a bottom-up electricity sector model for Hawaii, this paper demonstrates that a policy that gives “clean energy” credit to electricity technologies based on their cardinal ranking of lifecycle GHG emissions, normalizing the highest-emitting unit to zero credit, can reduce the costs of emissions abatement by up to 90% in comparison to a typical RPS. A GHG emissions-weighted CES provides incentive to not only pursue renewable sources of electricity, but also promotes fuel-switching among fossil fuels and improved generation efficiencies at fossil-fired units. CES is found to be particularly cost-effective when projected fossil fuel prices are relatively low.
UHERO has developed a two-page Policy Brief on this paper. The full publication can be found at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421512000961
UHERO Brief: The Lag in Employment Recovery
While US real GDP bottomed out in the second quarter of 2009 and is now back at its pre-recession level, non-farm payrolls only started picking up at the beginning of 2010, and they remain far below their previous peak. What explains the existence of this lag?
This brief appeared in the most recent UHERO County Forecast Report and is being made available as a service to the public. For more detailed analysis, subscribe to UHERO's Forecast Project.
UHERO Brief: The Macroeconomic Aftermath of the Earthquake / Tsunami in Japan?
The unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan makes any assessment of the near term outlook highly speculative. In coming weeks, as data on the extent of damage to Japan and Hawaii’s tourism industry is collected, UHERO will analyze the impact of the crisis on the near term outlook for Hawaii. In this UHERO Brief, UH economist Ilan Noy asks what research based on previous natural disasters can tell us about the likely long-run macroeconomic impact on Japan.
UHERO Brief: Honolulu Rail Transit: Do the Benefits Justify the Costs?
Preliminary considerations suggest a high degree of uncertainty about whether the benefits of rail justify the costs. As the conversation about rail costs advances, we should continue to consider the relative size of the benefits.
UHERO Brief: China's Real Estate Bubble
What will be the consequences of China’s real estate bubble deflating? One is tempted to equate the Chinese real estate bubble with the U.S. experience, but the differences between the Chinese and American real-estate and financial sectors are striking and will likely lead to a very different, and a much more moderate, outcome.