Will the proposed constitutional amendment to raise funds for public schools raise taxes for everyone?
That is the question. It is the argument being made by those opposing the amendment. While those in favor of it, adamantly say that it will not.
Teachers were pounding the pavement, going door-to-door Saturday morning educating the public about the constitutional amendment they hope will help generate much needed funds for Hawaii’s public schools.
“There’s an important initiative this year. We have a chance to say that we want some property tax from the richest investors from off island and on island to go to the schools,” said Deborah Bond-Upson a board member of Parents for Public Schools Hawaii.
But supporters said there is a great deal of misinformation out there.
“The other side says things like it’s going to go up for everybody. that’s not true. this particular amendment is definitely for those people who have investment properties, second, third, fourth properties valued at over a million dollars,” said Cynthia Tong, a teacher at Ewa Makai Middle School.
Those who oppose the amendment said the problem is the language of the amendment is too vague.
“Nowhere does it say in the constitutional amendment that is specifies what type of real property, and once a constitutional amendment is in place, its going to be very hard to reverse,” according to Sherry Menor-McNamara of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.
Both side will get a chance to plead their case to the state Supreme Court on Thursday, October 18, 2018, five days before walk-in voting begins.
If the state Supreme Court finds the amendment unconstitutional, it would kill the bill even though it has already been added to ballots.
The exact wording of the amendment states that it would:
“Authorize the legislature to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property.”
“Any time you have a constitutional amendment it has to be general. You can’t put a specific number into a constitution that’s going to be evergreen, that’s going to last a long time,” explained Bond-Upson.
The legislators are the ones who will be writing the enabling language.
Those against the amendment said a shift in the legislative agenda is what concerns them most.
“The legislative intent could change every session. so while they’re advocating for the one million dollar non occupied homes, that could not be the case,” according to Menor-McNamara.