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High Hopes But No Money

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

Last week the students of Konawaena High School hosted an economic summit of students from around the Big Island with attendees from Waiakea and Laupahoehoe High School. Their mission was to put together an agenda of proposals to revitalize the economy.

Proposals ranged from solving the auto insurance dilemma to encouraging new industries and supporting existing activities that hold potential for growth. One proposal resembled the Economic Revitalization Task Force’s tax proposal to cut net income taxes and raise the general excise tax after solving the problem of pyramiding of the 4% impost. In the latter case, the students felt that the pyramiding problem needed to be addressed in order to improve the overall tax system; however, they adopted the increase in the general excise tax because they seem to be acutely aware of the state’s bleak revenue picture.

 

 

 
To the credit of the students at the economic summit, they achieved a realization that has yet to cross the minds of their elders. Just because the state no longer has money does it mean that the health and welfare of the community have to suffer.
       In fact, the students seem to be dogged by the gloomy revenue picture. At every twist and turn in their discussion, any time the subject of spending more public dollars on this or that venture was raised, the question was posed: “Where will you get the money?” One recommendation to fix up a state park engendered an interesting discussion.

After the discussion about where the money would come from to fix up the park had been exhausted, the students raised the suggestion of having the community take care of the park similar to the adopt a highway program that is evident all over stretches of Big Island highways. Others suggested making the park clean up a service club project or even a community wide effort.

To the credit of the students at the economic summit, they achieved a realization that has yet to cross the minds of their elders. Just because the state no longer has money does it mean that the health and welfare of the community have to suffer. In fact, when taxpayers realize that the trade off for more services is higher taxes, they tend to think twice about asking for that service.

It is this accountability relationship that was violated in the early part of this decade when revenues began to slow and administration officials used all sorts of smoke and mirrors leading the taxpaying public to believe they could have more without really paying for those services. The students at the economic summit reached the conclusion that we should all recognize, that government cannot be everything to everyone and sometimes we are going to have to take the lead in maintaining our community.

It was interesting to watch the frustration of the students as they realized that many of their recommendations would require money that the state just does not have. What was more remarkable was the ingenuity that they put to task as they sought ways to replace those funding needs. If only lawmakers and administration officials could demonstrate as much creativity!

As they roll out the red carpet for the 1998 session, perhaps lawmakers can take a cue from our leaders of the future and use a little more creativity rather than resorting to money to solve the problems facing our state. Economic revitalization is not the sum of dollars expended as much as it is the inspiration of the leadership and the willingness to take risks. Unfortunately both of those qualities have been lacking in our community and it is time that we have leaders who are willing to inspire and take those risks.

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