Hawaii House backs off hotel room tax scoop

Hawaii lawmakers are backing off from a plan that would have taken $100 million in hotel tax money from counties to help balance the state budget.

Mayors had fought the proposal because it would have led to larger local budget deficits and increases in property taxes.

Instead, the House Finance Committee on Tuesday voted to cap the amount of hotel room tax revenue that goes to the counties at $94 million. Any amount over that would go to the state.

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The Senate could still decide to take the $100 million, a plan supported by both Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and Democratic legislative leaders.

The committee agreed to repeal general excise tax and use tax exemptions on a range of businesses and activities to raise an equivalent amount of money.

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New signs emerged Wednesday that the economic rebound is sputtering. Sales of new homes hit a record low last month. And mortgage giant Freddie Mac signaled it will need more federal aid — and might never repay it.

Against that backdrop, the government is trying to prop up the housing and job markets. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated the need to continue record-low interest rates for “an extended period.” And the Senate passed a bill to give tax breaks to companies that hire the jobless.

Bernanke told Congress that low rates will help ensure that the recovery will last and help ease the sting of high unemployment. Asked what else Congress could do to stimulate job creation, he hesitated to say.

“I’m sure you know the menu of things that you could do which could create jobs,” he said. [Read the full article]

The Indiana House approved legislation Wednesday that would repeal an unemployment insurance tax increase, as well as a package of tax credits and other incentives designed to create jobs.

The Democrat-controlled chamber voted 82-17 in favor of a bill that would repeal an increase on taxes that employers pay into the unemployment insurance fund. It voted unanimously for the job-creation bill.

Both bills included major changes to legislation previously passed by the Republican-led Senate. Sponsors of those bills said both measures would go to a House-Senate conference committee where compromises will be sought.

It’s possible that lawmakers will adjourn the session next week, which would give lawmakers little time to strike deals on several bills that could pass both chambers and be sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels. [Read the full article]
Administration officials warned Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn would have to cut spending more than $2 billion, or 8 percent, next year — while the recession increases the need for state services — unless he finds new money.

Quinn’s office launched a Web site that lays out Illinois’ dire economic situation, seeking taxpayers’ input on fixing the fiscal mess two weeks before the Democrat unveils his budget plan for the coming year.

It suggests a needed $2.2 billion cut in spending — mostly in elementary and secondary education, where funding would drop 15 percent even as school districts are already struggling with late state payments. [Read the full article]

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