State high court to hear ballot measure for school funding

The Maui News

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Oct. 18 in a lawsuit filed by the state’s four counties to remove a proposed state constitutional amendment from the Nov. 6 ballot pertaining to funding education with a surcharge on investment properties.

The amendment, strongly backed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, asks: “Shall the Legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

The HSTA says that more funding is needed for schools, that many jurisdictions nationwide employ property taxes to fund their school systems, and that the surcharge is aimed at higher-valued investment properties.

Maui, Kauai, Hawaii counties and the City and County of Honolulu filed a lawsuit and motion in the 1st Circuit Court last month to take the proposed amendment off the general election ballot, Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said Thursday.

The petition asserts that the state Legislature’s proposed “surcharge” is actually a real property tax disguised with another name, that the term “investment property” does not exclude any homeowner properties from possible taxation, and that the proposed constitutional amendment does not require the Legislature to increase spending for public education, he said.

Maui County officials have said that they are concerned about the state encroaching on the counties primary source of funding, property taxes.

A 1st Circuit judge ruled against the counties, which appealed to the state Supreme Court. The high court’s acceptance of the writ means the counties and state will argue their positions orally before the court at 8:45 a.m. Oct. 18.