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HSTA responds to House speaker's bill for taxes to fund teacher compensation

'HSTA will have to research whether this proposal has enough popular support to be approved by voters'

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki introduced HB 2671, a constitutional amendment proposing that the Board of Education (BOE) have concurrent real property tax authority to fund teacher compensation. "Concurrent" means the counties will retain their real property tax authority in addition to the BOE.

“Giving the Board of Education authority over taxation is common practice across the United States, and it is how many systems pay for their schools. We appreciate legislators trying to adequately fund our schools and HSTA will have to research whether this proposal has enough popular support to be approved by voters,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

"HB 2671 addresses the question of how to fund increased teacher compensation. The general public and business community must weigh in on whether taxes should be raised to increase teacher salaries, and, if so, whether a real property tax is an appropriate source of revenue," said Speaker Saiki. "If approved by the Legislature, HB 2671 will be placed on the 2020 general election ballot and voters will have the opportunity to ratify it."

The amendment question placed on the ballot would read:

"Shall the Constitution of the State of Hawaii be amended by repealing the counties' exclusive jurisdiction over real property taxation and providing instead that the taxation of real property shall be under the concurrent jurisdiction of both the board of education and counties, thereby allowing the board of education to levy real property taxes to fund teacher compensation?"

A separate bill, HB 2662, has been introduced to statutorily implement the constitutional amendment if it is ratified. HB 2662 is a "short form" bill that requires the Legislature to insert statutory implementation language.

The bill has been referred to its committees for public hearings.

Meanwhile, a bill was also introduced to provide a tax break for some teachers.

If SB 2261 becomes law, public school teachers who earn $60,000 or less per year would not have to pay state income tax on up to $30,000 of their salary.

“A lot of times the biggest turnover we have is with new teachers,” Rosenlee told KHON2. “So we love to see the tax credit for all teachers, but anything we can get we’re happy with.”

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