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Healing the Economy is Everyone’s Goal

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

It seems that proponents of the Economic Revitalization Task Force are trying to portray those who do not support the general excise tax rate increase as being against the Task Force package of ideas and therefore against revitalizing the state economy.


  To say that just because one does not support one component of the Task Force package…doesn’t mean that person doesn’t care about the future of the state’s economy.        And that is a shame as there is no doubt that everyone in Hawaii, whether they be the CEO of one of Hawaii’s major companies or the janitor that cleans the CEO’s office, is concerned about the future of the state’s economy. After all, many are concerned about their jobs, about being able to put food on the table, of whether or not there will be a future for their children. To say that just because one does not support one component of the Task Force package, in this case, the general excise tax increase, doesn’t mean that person doesn’t care about the future of the state’s economy.

However, for those who would portray opponents of the tax increase as anti-improvement of the economy it is a symptom that they have much more to hide than they are willing to acknowledge. The public has been told that the tax increase will help shift the burden of taxes to visitors. But have the proponents also been willing to acknowledge that the tax increase will not help to lower the cost of living in Hawaii?

The public has also been scolded that cutting taxes without making up some of the lost revenue would be fiscally irresponsible because that would require laying off a substantial number of public employees and just what would the state do with all of these unemployed public employees? Well, if that is the case, then let’s just be honest with taxpayers and tell them that is all they, the Task Force especially the political leaders, can afford to give back to taxpayers. By the same virtue, political leaders should also admit that while they knew about the problem for the past three years, they didn’t have the political will to gradually downsize government.

What is more telling is that those on the Task Force who are not from government don’t seem to acknowledge the real problem which is that government is taking and continues to take more from the economy than can reasonably be expected if the economy is expected to thrive. Perhaps this is the reason why many of those leaders couldn’t understand the public cynicism about the first “Thumbs Up” campaign. The public reviewed the Task Force proposal and one of the glaring omissions was a statement that government needed to downside, after all businesses have been tightening their belts, laying off employees, and downsizing their operations for the past five years. People have lost their jobs or their second jobs, some have had to face foreclosure on their homes while still others have had to declare bankruptcy to keep the creditors at bay.

These very taxpayers look over the fence at government and have yet to see spending cuts or public employees lose their jobs let alone their generous wages and benefits. So is it any wonder why taxpayers remain cynical about the Task Force package, especially the proposal to increase the general excise tax increase.

Taxpayers are not about to be fooled into believing that the burden will be shifted to visitors. After all if the visitor doesn’t come to Hawaii or spend as much as they used to, who then will bear the burden? Between the offset in paying higher federal income taxes as a result of reducing state income taxes and the increase in the general excise tax rate, it is doubtful that Hawaii residents can actually win in this shell game. Then again, all taxpayers are hearing is “Trust Me!

Those who would deride opponents of the general excise tax increase should question their own motivations rather than accusing their opponents of being against improvement of the economy. More importantly, one should ask whether or not the $100 million is really enough to get [a stagnant $33 billion state] economy moving again, or is it just enough to get by next November?

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