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Evading Accountability Rampant Among Lawmakers

posted in: Weekly Commentary 0
By Lowell L. Kalapa

It is interesting to watch elected officials as the Working Groups of the Economic Revitalization Task Force make their reports. There appears to be a lot of squirming and posturing as one by one these groups of business owners and operators, labor representatives, and department officials train their sights on options to improve the state’s economic and business climate.

Fortunately or unfortunately, elected officials are probably getting more than they bargained for by setting up these Working Groups for the panels are not mincing any words. Common threads include cutting the cost of government, privatizing various state functions, and reducing the tax burden. This is not music to the ears of those who have been so used to spending state tax dollars.

In fact, even the governor seems to be posturing by juxtaposing a proposal to eliminate the corporate income tax with the caution that anything more than that, such as a cut in the personal income tax, could require a cut in the level of state provided public services. Does this mean that taxpayers shouldn’t expect taxes to be cut because it will mean that services will be cut and with them will go public workers?

That would seem to be the inference. But wait, if one examines the recommendations of the various Working Groups, that appears to be the message: cut the cost of government, down-size the public work force, and look for ways to make government more efficient.So, if elected officials are sincere about taking the recommendations of these Working Groups seriously, rather than trying to make up revenues lost because taxes are cut, they should be looking seriously at tightening the belt of state government spending.

And don’t worry, there already have been quiet conversations among lawmakers who refuse to accept the idea that they are being asked to cut taxes. In fact, one lawmaker decried the fact saying that it was necessary to keep up the level of revenue because there were all these important programs that needed funding. Little did he realize that the size of government relative to the state economy as measured by the Gross State Product (GSP) is more than three percentage points larger than it has been on average for the past twenty years. If one considers that each percentage point of GSP is about $370 million, that means that government is more than a billion dollars larger than it has been on average.

That lawmaker went on to accuse his audience saying that all people want to do is to cut taxes and they don’t care what happens to those who need the help of government. Again, it appears that many lawmakers, like this one, believe that government’s role is to guarantee a standard of living for all residents. Little do lawmakers give credit to the importance of the economy in helping to better the lives of all residents, for without jobs, we know that welfare reform will fail. In fact, that is probably why Hawaii continues to buck the national trend which is seeing welfare rolls shrink in other states.

So instead of trying to evade the accountability, lawmakers and other elected officials need to step up to the plate and quit whining about the loss of revenues a tax cut would mean. It is about time elected officials come to a realization that government has indeed grown too large and it is time to do something about putting the financial house in order.

Finally, contrary to the resistance demonstrated by some elected officials bemoaning that these Working Groups are only expecting government to do something about getting the economy kick-started, those officials should listen more closely about what makes businesses thrive. Guess what, it isn’t businesses that levy taxes and it isn’t businesses that impose regulations! Guess what state government, you have met the enemy and you don’t like what you see in the mirror!

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