Battle heats up on the controversial constitutional amendment proposal


A ballot proposal to raise taxes on investment property for education can actually lower home prices. That’s the argument by some UH faculty members who support the constitutional amendment.

The say it’s a win-win for everyone. They say they’ve done the research and voters are getting the wrong information. 
But their union, UHPA, says the proposal is still too vague and could hurt their members. 

The proposal on the ballot asks voters to allow the legislature to impose a surcharge on investment property for education. The teachers’ union, HSTA, says it is intended only for secondary homes worth more than a million dollars.
Some UH faculty members also support the proposal. They say property taxes have already been going up for everyone because of outside investors raising home prices. They say the amendment can help lower the cost of real estate by discouraging outside investors.

“By going after higher tax rates on investment properties that will, economists agree, that that should lower the cost of home prices but then we also have this win win for public education,” said UH lecturer Colleen Rost-Banik.

But the union for UH faculty sides with the Affordable Hawaii Coalition, which says the ballot question is too vague.

“We support the idea of it. On the other hand many of our members rent and we think that this could actually be a negative for them,” said UHPA president Lynne Wilkens.

UH Law School Professor David Callies points out that amendments have to be written vaguely because if they become law, they need to stand the test of time.

“Constitutional provisions are by nature general and not specific. That’s the whole idea and this is not gonna be self executing, so you’re gonna have legislation that implements it,” said Callies, who teaches state and local government law.

He adds that the legislature would be hard pressed to raise property taxes on primary homes or do anything that raises the rent.

“That seems to me a really good way to lose the next election,” he said.

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