Chair’s 3 Minutes: Residents benefit from important state and county legislation

The County of Maui was a winner during the recently concluded state legislative session.

We owe a big mahalo to all of our Maui County legislators, with special thanks to Speaker of the House Joseph Souki of Wailuku.

Among the successes at the Capitol was securing funding to preserve land at Lipoa Point in West Maui. Responding to testimony submitted by many organizations and individuals including myself, legislators recognized the protection of Lipoa Point as one of Hawaii’s iconic landmarks, rich in natural resources and cultural history.

A $20 million appropriation was approved to purchase and conserve Lipoa Point. Legislators also appropriated $130 million to begin the construction of the Kihei high school in July 2015.

South Maui is the largest community in the state without a regional high school complex. Currently, students from South Maui have to attend high school in Central Maui, where facilities have exceeded their maximum design capacities.

Maui County and all of Hawaii’s municipal governments were able to preserve our current shares of transient accommodations tax revenue. In the upcoming fiscal year, Maui County will receive 22.8 percent of statewide TAT revenue – about $21 million – allowing the county to continue to provide critical services for residents and visitors.

It’s our goal to ensure a larger share of TAT revenue is kept where it’s earned, here in Maui County, in the next legislative session. We could use everyone’s help.

Your council has also been busy with important county legislation. On May 7, the council voted unanimously to override the mayor’s veto of Bill 16 (2013) regarding the so-called “circuit breaker” tax credit program.

The circuit breaker tax credit provides tax relief to residents who qualify for the home exemption and face real property taxes exceeding 2 percent of their adjusted gross income.

When the circuit breaker tax credit was established in 1996, it was intended to protect working families and retirees from being forced off their land because of an inability to pay real property taxes as land values escalated. Unfortunately, some property owners were able to legally qualify for the credit, despite not being among the intended beneficiaries.

So, the council tightened up the language. Bill 16, introduced by Council Member Mike White, establishes that the adjusted gross income of all titleholders of the property must be considered in determining whether a homeowner may qualify for the circuit breaker tax credit.

To qualify, members of the household cannot own any other real property, the homeowner’s gross building assessed value cannot be greater than $400,000, and taxes on the property must be up to date. Households whose combined annual income exceeds $100,000 do not qualify.

To see if you qualify for the circuit breaker tax credit, visit the Department of Finance’s Real Property Tax Division website at

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.