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Doing a Disservice in Spending Tax Dollars

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

It seems that taxpayers wouldn’t mind the high burden of taxes if they thought they were getting a good return of public services for their hard earned tax dollars. That seemed to be the sentiment of some of those in attendance at a discussion of economic alternatives held on Kauai a couple of weeks ago.

However, to a T (for taxpayer) all of those at the workshop agreed that their tax dollars were not being used wisely and efficiently and therefore agreed that taxes are too high and they were not willing to give any more to government. And why shouldn’t taxpayers have that perception of government spending? From koa benches to unlimited overtime pay for state workers, there have been countless examples of how state tax dollars have been used and abused.

On the other hand, there are countless examples of how tax dollars have NOT been used for their intended purpose to the detriment of the community. Whether it be a drive to demonstrate how “prudent” public administrators have been with tax dollars or being able to redirect unused dollars for other purposes, there are recent cases which have raised the question of whether or not tax dollars are needed at all.

Take, for example, the recent publicity about the savings of more than $22 million in the department of education from last year’s budget. While taxpayers hear stories of how teachers have to buy their own supplies, the department runs a surplus. Perhaps this occurred this year because this is the first year the department of education could carry over a surplus from one year to the next. Let’s hope they spend that surplus on the classrooms and not another bank of bureaucrats.

Then there was the recent proposal from the Hawaii Housing Authority (HHA) – the agency that operates all the low-income housing projects of the state – that would have started collecting “rent” from all the social welfare agencies that are located in HHA facilities even though their sole purpose is to serve the families living in that housing project. Given that most of these social welfare agencies are providing these services under a contract with the department of human services, the proposal amounted to something akin to robbing Peter to pay Paul. When the media caught wind of the silly idea and exposed it, the proposal was quickly shelved.

Then there is the example of how a neighbor island court administrator has refused to expend any of the funds appropriated for a child visitation program because the program provides that the clients must pay for the cost. The administrator conveniently is ignoring the fact that in many cases the client cannot pay for the cost or can only pay part of the cost of the service and that’s why there is money appropriated for the program.

As a result, few, if any, of the clients are getting help when turning their child over to the other parent in a separation or divorce situation even though it is mandated by the family court judge. It seems almost ridiculous that funds have been appropriated for a program to help stem the rise of domestic violence that may occur when children are being turned over to the other parent but because of some bureaucrat, the funds will not be spent. In the meantime, the potential for a fatal outcome from domestic violence that could occur in that exchange of the child festers.

No wonder taxpayers are not willing to pay any more in taxes. If what taxpayers are already giving to government is not being used well or being used at all, why should taxpayers be willing to give any more? In fact, taxpayers believe that they can do a better job in expending those tax dollars and want them returned in the form of lower taxes.

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