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Making A Difference for the Future

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

     Well it is almost over, the campaign rhetoric and advertisements will come to a crescendo as election day dawns in the coming week.  

 

 
…the truth of the matter cannot be ignored that government in Hawaii is a major contributor to [the cost of living].
       Voters have heard a lot of promises and a lot of characterizations about what this election is all about from values to the economy from records of achievement to the need for change. But on the eve of this last gubernatorial election of the century, what is the most important issue facing the residents of the state? Many residents have already cast their ballot on that issue. The ballot they cast took the form of an airline ticket to some place outside the state. Those families made a choice to leave family and friends, to leave behind a place that they loved, of familiar surroundings, of foods and traditions that make Hawaii unique.

They would have loved to remain in the islands, but they found that they could not make ends meet, that they could not provide for their families because the jobs were just not there or the jobs just didn’t pay enough or the cost of everything exceeded how much they could earn even if they held down two or three jobs. For some, it was that they didn’t get paid enough as is the argument of police officers. For others, it was the high cost of housing or just the high cost of putting food on the table.

 

 

 

If the state’s economy is to make a turnaround, then the people we elect next week must have the political will to set priorities and decide which government services are essential to the health and safety of our community.

       While it is true that as an island state the cost of transportation and the limited supply of not only land but other natural resources creates higher costs, the truth of the matter cannot be ignored that government in Hawaii is a major contributor to costs. From the fifth highest per capita tax burden in the country to the hidden cost of government regulation, government has exacerbated what is an already difficult and costly environment in which to work and live.

While taxpayer/constituents are somewhat responsible for the high cost imposed by government be it in the tax burden which is a function of the multitude of programs and services provided by government or the regulation of individuals, businesses or the environment, it is the elected official who has acceded to the demands of constituents. When times were good and the tax revenues rolled in, elected officials found that they could keep everyone happy by funding any and every request.

Now that the economy has turned sour and elected officials have to scratch the bottom of the barrel to find any spare tax receipts, they find it difficult to tell voters that programs will have to be cut. The result is what voters have witnessed over the past four years, constant attempts to raise taxes and when that didn’t work, raiding of special funds to keep programs going or raising user fees and charges to make certain programs “self-sufficient.”

No elected official wants to be a bad guy by cutting programs or paring expenditures. But those that don’t make very poor leaders. Avoiding the hard choices demonstrates a lack of political will.

If the state’s economy is to make a turnaround, then the people we elect next week must have the political will to set priorities and decide which government services are essential to the health and safety of our community. Those programs and services which are not essential must be jettisoned if the cost that government imposes on all of us is to be reduced.

If the cost of government cannot be reduced and reined in, the prospects of Hawaii coming out of this economic crisis will be dashed. The high cost of living and doing business puts Hawaii at a competitive disadvantage on the world market. If costs cannot be reduced, then all of the political campaign rhetoric is worthless. No amount of hype and promotion is going to change Hawaii’s position if no one can afford our products and services.

Reducing the burden of government will be a challenge, but unless there are elected officials willing to take that risk, the future of Hawaii will remain bleak.

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