By Tom Yamachika, President
This weekend, I got a very interesting question from one of our readers. “Governor Ige has emergency powers,” the questioner said. “Can he raise our taxes by himself?”
The answer appears to be “no, but.”
The Governor’s emergency powers relating to enforcement of existing laws are in Hawaii Revised Statutes chapter 127A. Basically, this says that the Governor has the power, during an emergency, to suspend laws that are getting in the way of emergency efforts. He doesn’t have the authority to decree new laws without legislative authorization.
So there won’t be new tax laws, but…
What if the Governor said, “Folks, we have a bunch of tax exemptions and credits that are getting in the way of collecting essential revenue that we absolutely need for our government to function. So, we are getting rid of them as of now.”
This is not a far-fetched scenario. You may recall in the 2011-2013 time frame we passed Act 105, Session Laws of 2011, which suspended twenty-three different General Excise Tax exemptions for a two-year period starting on July 1, 2011. The suspension lasted until June 30, 2013, but thankfully was not renewed afterwards.
If, however, someone in the Administration gets the bright idea to do this, we at the Foundation will be waiting with countermeasures. We’ll be ready to go into the court system and have a conversation about whether the Governor’s emergency power in fact extends that far.
We are very thankful to those of you who have donated some of your hard-earned money to the Foundation to help us prevent against grabs like this one. We hope you agree that it’s important to keep the Foundation alive for this purpose, among others!
Stay safe, everyone!