Admired ag inspector turns in his badge

After 30 years of protecting native animals and plants, the head of Hawaii’s agricultural inspection operation leaves behind a short-handed and beleaguered team today, worried that invading species are slipping into the islands.

“Shipments are backed up but are still being inspected. That’s the good part,” said Domingo Cravalho Jr., who is retiring as inspection and compliance section chief for the state Department of Agriculture. “Because of the lack of resources and lack of inspectors and the reduction in the amount of good inspections, things are getting through. …

“It’s overwhelming at times and some individuals may be overlooking things or bypassing things. Under the circumstances, we just don’t have enough eyes and ears out there.”

Hawaii Rally, Protesters Bandy Tax Hike Proposal – NY Times

HONOLULU (AP) — Advocates for the poor and labor union workers rallied Tuesday for an increase in Hawaii’s version of the sales tax as anti-tax protesters urged the government to back off.

More than 200 people gathered at the state capitol to ask lawmakers for a 1-percentage point increase in the general excise tax imposed on goods and services. The tax, known as GET, is currently 4.5 percent on Oahu and 4 percent elsewhere in Hawaii.

They waved colored signs saying ”GET” and urged lawmakers not to eliminate jobs and services.

”The cuts are too deep. They are damaging the economy,” the Rev. Bob Nakata, a Methodist minister, told the crowd. ”It’s not just the bleeding hearts that are saying this needs to be done.”

Hawaii’s money troubles have resulted in less government support for public schools, child protective services, mental health, social service providers and agriculture inspectors. Hundreds of public employees were laid off, and the rest are taking pay cuts through furloughs.

Two Senate committees have approved the tax hike, but Senate financial planners intend to kill the proposal, which would raise about $458 million annually toward the state’s $1.2 billion projected budget deficit through June 2011.