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Hawaii Legislature wants state to buy Maui land

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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers are urging the state to buy 270 acres in West Maui to preserve the land's natural beauty and help retirees who rely on it for their pensions.

The Hawaii Legislature has passed a bill requiring the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to work on purchasing the shorefront property, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday (http://bit.ly/12ch8lE).

Lawmakers set aside $20 million in general obligation bonds in their state budget proposal to fund the sale.

The Legislature says preserving the land called Lipoa Point would benefit Hawaii's tourism industry and marine resources. They say it also will help protect land that has important archaeological and historical significance.

Many Maui residents and environmental organizations support the initiative.

But critics say the move is a bailout for the current land owner, Maui Land & Pineapple Co., which manages resorts and nature preserves.

The company has been struggling financially for several years. It has been selling land to pay off its debts, and has pledged the Lipoa Point parcel as collateral for employee pensions.

Lawmakers say buying the property would ensure retirees aren't left out in the cold. They worry that if the company goes under, retirees will have to rely on the state and could end up straining social services.

Maui County values the land at $2.6 million for property tax purposes. Some advocates for the bill say the price of the purchase likely will be between $20 and $30 million.

Maui Land & Pineapple Co. had a $4.6 million loss last year. The company lost another $1.8 million in the first quarter of 2013.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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