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 among the busiest instances of the yr.
In previous classes, my Institute colleagues and I’ve usually spent extra time making an attempt to cease unhealthy concepts than see good ones make it to the end line. This yr, nonetheless, we now have excessive hopes for just a few concepts that might make an actual distinction for our state.
Specifically, we now have been advancing particular reforms to assist decrease the price of dwelling, enhance the provision of housing and enhance healthcare entry for the individuals of Hawaii — and it seems probably that some, if not all, of those proposed reforms can be warmly obtained.
Concerning extra housing, the secret’s to cut back Hawaii’s land-use and zoning rules, which research present are considerably associated to housing shortages and better costs.
By way of land use, the Legislature may 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 perform, however the state may also help body how they’re utilized. For instance, the Legislature may require that the counties enable extra multi-unit houses resembling duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. It additionally may place restrictions on so-called inclusionary zoning rules, which traditionally have held again smaller, mid-range housing developments.
Lastly, the Legislature may 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 may tackle this by permitting out-of-state license holders to observe in Hawaii — just like what we skilled below 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, nonetheless, is barely a part of the issue. We additionally must make Hawaii a friendlier state for personal observe docs. Which means taking a tough take a look at the state’s normal 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 companies from the final excise tax, and now’s the proper time for the Legislature to behave. Not solely would such an exemption assist entice extra docs to our state, it additionally would decrease healthcare prices for Hawaii residents.
Talking of taxes and medication, we now have a prescription for the Legislature relating to taxes and the funds, and it’s taken straight 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 a substitute ought 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. Possibly even give slightly little bit of the state’s anticipated $3 billion surplus again to the individuals, 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 may carry down housing prices, strengthen healthcare entry and, normally, decrease our ridiculously excessive price of dwelling. Not would we now have to fret about our household, mates and neighbors leaving the islands for larger alternatives elsewhere.
If the Legislature embraces these concepts, we can be properly on our strategy to making Hawaii a spot by which we will all reside and thrive.
Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.