Hawaii Imposes a 70% Surcharge on Vape Products
Hawaii’s lawmakers raced against the clock on Friday evening, trying to finalize bills addressing numerous critical issues. With the deadline looming, significant decisions were made concerning tourism management, Aloha Stadium, and tax rates.
A Frantic Finish to Months of Hard Work
Since January, legislators have held countless hearings and considered thousands of bills. Finally, the legislative process reached a feverish climax on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., with a hectic hour and a half of drafting.
Last-Minute Agreements and Compromises
Many bills were backlogged, waiting for budget approval. Lawmakers, staff, state officials, and interested parties crammed into a single room as committees rotated in and out, hastily casting their votes. Among the eleventh-hour agreements was a tax relief package that increased income tax credits and brackets.
“This is a broad-reaching tax package that will really assist middle and lower-income families,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.
The Battle Against Vaping: A Significant Victory for Anti-Vaping Advocates
A 70% Surcharge on Vape Products
One of the long-standing issues addressed during the session was the taxation of vape products. After nine years of advocacy, anti-vaping proponents triumphed with the introduction of a 70% surcharge on such items.
A Win for Educators and Students
McKinley High School special education teacher Laverne Moore fought for this change on behalf of her students. She believes that taxing e-cigarettes will help reduce usage among young people.
“By taxing e-cigarettes, we are hoping that the use among the youth will decrease,” she said. “We are just elated!”
Disappointments and Unresolved Issues
Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Aloha Stadium Funding
While some victories were won, not all parties left the session satisfied. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, after losing a bid to build condos on Kakaako land, saw their request for $65 million to repair the Kewalo basin wharf denied. The redevelopment of Aloha Stadium also faced setbacks; although $350 million had already been approved, the House withheld an additional $49 million requested by the governor.
“We do not want the stadium to become another rail project where the cost spirals out of control,” Saiki said.
Tourism Management and Marketing Reforms Stalled
Despite public calls for tourism management and marketing reforms, a bill that would have replaced the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) failed. The agency survives but will not receive any money from the state general fund budget.
“There is still enough money left in HTA to continue their destination management efforts, to continue a lot of their cultural support, if not all of it,” said House Tourism Chair Rep. Sean Quinlan. “The big question is, will there be money left over for marketing — I suspect not much.”
A Final Opportunity for Fixes
The lawmakers have allowed some buffer time in their schedule to address any mistakes made during Friday’s chaotic session. They plan to adjourn next week on Thursday, finally bringing the legislative process to a close.
The imposition of a 70% surcharge on vape products in Hawaii marks a significant victory for anti-vaping advocates. However, unresolved issues concerning tourism management, Aloha Stadium funding, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs remind us that not all problems can be solved in a single legislative session. As lawmakers reconvene to address any lingering concerns, we’ll continue to watch closely and keep you informed.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the 70% surcharge on vape products in Hawaii?
The 70% surcharge is a tax on vape products, imposed by the Hawaii state government to discourage the use of e-cigarettes, particularly among young people.
2. How did the 70% surcharge on vape products come about?
The surcharge resulted from a nine-year battle by anti-vaping advocates, culminating in the recent legislative session in Hawaii. The measure aims to decrease the use of vape products, particularly among youth.
3. What happened to the funding for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Aloha Stadium?
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ request for $65 million to repair the Kewalo basin wharf was denied, and the House withheld $49 million of additional funding for the redevelopment of Aloha Stadium.
4. What is the status of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) after the recent legislative session?
Although a bill to replace the HTA failed, the agency will not receive any money from the state general fund budget. The HTA will continue its destination management and cultural support efforts but may have less money for marketing.
5. When will the Hawaii lawmakers reconvene to address any mistakes made during the legislative session?
The lawmakers have allowed some buffer time in their schedule and plan to adjourn next week on Thursday, giving them an opportunity to fix any errors or address unresolved issues.