Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crucial fix is only days away

Tick, tock. Time is running out for the Legislature's "fast track" to kick out a fix for the enormous payroll tax hike that is poised to kill or cripple thousands of Hawai'i businesses.

Without a legislative antidote, the average employer will be hit with an annual bill of $1,070 per worker, a staggering increase from the current rate of $90 for each employee.

Rewriting the state law that would impose the big payroll tax increase was cited by the governor and legislative leaders as their top priority in January, and they vowed to work with business leaders to quickly draft and pass a corrective measure.

Fulfilling that promise, lawmakers appear poised to pass House Bill 2169, which would replenish the unemployment fund over time, lowering the annual hit to $630 per worker, on average.

A deadline to pass the needed legal adjustment is looming. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations must get the new rate in place by March 12 so that it can apply it to the state's roughly 37,000 employers and send out the quarterly tax invoices with correct amounts.

Anyone who thinks that deadline is a slam-dunk hasn't watched Hawai'i government in action for very long.

HB 2169 crossed over to the Senate Feb. 18 and on Friday cleared, unamended, review by two committees. It's due this week for a final vote on the Senate floor before heading upstairs for the sign-off by the governor.

The public can take one message from that performance: The Legislature can, when it's pushed, act quickly.

So no lollygagging now. Businesses need to put this worry behind them as quickly as possible.