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Jeepers, the Answer Has Always Been to Raise Taxes

posted in: Weekly Commentary 0
By Lowell L. Kalapa

Although both gubernatorial candidates promised not to raise taxes, and certainly the new governor’s feet will be held to the fire on that promise, that doesn’t mean that others don’t have designs on raising taxes.
In fact, several groups have already been meeting to figure out what needs to be done at the state and/or county level. One lawmaker concerned about a recent report that child obesity in Hawaii is of epidemic proportions has suggested that children need to stop eating junk food which contributes to the problem. Flexing the muscled arm of government, he suggested that a sin tax be imposed on all junk food.
Once again, the myopic mentality of an elected official reigns. True to form, lawmakers believe that if there is a problem, all you have to do is to raise or impose a tax to solve the problem. In this case, this lawmakers believe that government should slap the hands of children with a tax so that they won’t buy and therefore eat junk food. Unfortunately, many lawmakers seem to operate in their own world and not in the world of reality. Who says that kids won’t whine and beg their parents for that little extra cost of the “sin” tax anyway and still get their hands on junk food.
What happened to personal responsibility? What happened to teaching parents that they have a responsibility to insure the health of their children? To a large degree, this attitude that government will take care of everything from the cradle to the grave has contributed to the problems facing government today. Government cannot be all things to all people. Funding yet another program without understanding the root of the problem is irresponsible. Setting priorities for what limited resources taxpayers can share with their government should be the reason voters elect their representatives.
And setting priorities is the key issue in another discussion that is taking place. In this case, citizens like architects and environmentalists believe overheard utility lines are a visual blight to Hawaii’s beautiful landscape. They believe that all utility lines should be placed underground so that we all can enjoy Hawaii’s gorgeous tropical scenery. And who wouldn’t like to be able to view the beautiful Pacific Ocean or the verdant Pali without all those unsightly utility lines to spoil the perfect photo of Diamond Head?
The problem is that it will cost millions of dollars. In fact, the proponents of this effort admit that the cost could be as high as a billion dollars or more. And just where will either the state or the counties find the money to undertake this project? Don’t worry, the discussion in this task is already turning in the direction of raising taxes or fees. Some of the participants have suggested that perhaps the utilities should take this cost on as it is their lines which are contributing to the problem.
Again, the myopic view seems to obscure the harsh reality that the utilities won’t absorb these costs as they are responsible to their stockholders. So the added cost of undergrounding their overhead lines will have to be passed on to customers. And who are the customers of these utilities? Why it is the same taxpayers that would have to foot the bill if taxes are raised to achieve the same goal.
Much as we would like to have everything and anything that we think government should provide us, taxpayers also need to recognize that someone has to pay for all these wants, needs, and desires. While many of us, especially elected officials, would like to think that “someone” is somebody else, invariably that “someone” is us. Elected officials would like us to believe that these services are “free,” that somehow either the money is going to fall out of the heavens or someone from Washington, D.C. is going to send us “free” federal funds.
The point of the matter is that as taxpayers we all pay for these “bright ideas.” If as taxpayers we are willing to pay higher taxes, then all of these projects can be undertaken. The real question then is “are you willing to pay more in taxes?”
And certainly some have said they are willing to pay higher taxes for such programs as education or to build a certain building or project. The problem with that approach is that if there is a certain core program or service that doesn’t appeal to a majority of taxpayers, then those services will go wanting. After all, things like sewers or helping people on welfare don’t have a large taxpayer constituency.
That’s why we have elected officials. They are there to set priorities and use the tax resources wisely. Trying to solve problems or provide new services by increasing taxes is not what voters want or need.

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