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Need for Honesty is Imperative

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By Lowell L. Kalapa
Now that the votes have been tallied and the last of the “mahalo ads” have been run, you, like many others, are breathing a sigh of relief. No more blaring announcers exhorting you to vote this way or that – no more disgusting ads in which candidates attempted to tell you about the records of their opponents.

What is unfortunate is that most of those advertisements told only half the story, using the more inflamed issue to paint the opponent in a certain light. This practice was not confined to a particular race or for that matter to a particular party. Both Republicans and Democrats should be ashamed of their twisting of the truth about voting records and issues.

For example, one television spot touted that the opposing candidate voted against building new school buildings. Well, that is probably true given that the measure that contained the funding for those schools was the state budget. The budget provides funding for all of the programs of the state including the construction of school facilities. The question then is was the elected official voting against the funding of school construction or was he voting against some other publicly funded program? Who knows, but the advertisement chose to paint the opponent as one who opposed the construction of school facilities.

Another issue raised was a vote against a bill that would have informed the public about businesses which pollute the environment. The advertisement charged that the opponent voted against a bill that would have required “polluters” to notify the public of their derelict actions. The opponent, on the other hand, explained that he voted against the bill because it would have raised the five cents per barrel environmental tax.

So the issue should have been: did the elected official vote against this particular bill because it would have required polluting companies to notify the public or did the official vote against the bill because it would have raised taxes? The other way to look at it is, should voters have been pleased if the ad said that the elected official voted against this particular bill because it would raise taxes?

Although few probably cared about these advertisements because they came in the heat of the campaign, we, as voters and taxpayers, should be concerned that these types of allegations do not become the real reports on what our government is doing. While the media bears some responsibility in insuring that the facts and the truth are not twisted, our elected officials bear an even greater responsibility in being honest with constituents.

The honesty record of elected officials in recent years has been poor. It is not that they have out right lied as much as they have adopted measures which are less than up-front about the issues. For example, in the tax arena regarding the “environmental response tax” of five cents per barrel. How many taxpayers know that there is an additional cost in every gallon of gasoline they purchase?

Speaking of which, during the campaign there was a lot of rhetoric about the high cost of gasoline which resulted in a suite being filed against the major oil companies. But how many taxpayers recognize what government imposed costs add to the cost of a gallon of gasoline that puts the Hawaii price at a distinct disadvantage compared to mainland prices. Aside from the nearly 52 cents per gallon of federal, state and county gasoline taxes, there is the 4% general excise tax imposed on each gallon of gasoline.

Further, no other state has a tax like the general excise tax which is imposed on all transactions. This results in every service associated with the production of not only gasoline products but every product and service sold in this state being subject to the cost of the 4% tax. It is estimated, for example, to cost nearly twice as much to build the same service station facilities in Hawaii as it does in California.

The cost of gasoline is not the only place where elected officials have tended to hide the true cost of government. Another is the conveyance tax which was doubled several years ago so that the increased amount of the tax could be earmarked for affordable rental housing and the natural area reserve program. If taxpayers knew that they were paying for these programs while watching spending on education being cut, would they have re-elect the same public officials?

Indeed, being well-informed about what our elected officials do is critical to a good government. If elected officials cannot remain honest and forthright about what actions they take, then they have every reasoned to be ashamed!

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