Legislature Is Coming For Your Wallet Again
Wednesday - May 13, 2009
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and state Sen. Sam Slom may not agree on everything, but they do represent an ideal to which the rest of our local government should aspire.
Ideologically, they are miles apart. Hanabusa is an unabashed Democrat while Slom is a committed Republican who sometimes dips his toe into Libertarian waters. But despite this chasm in philosophy, their common objective of a better Hawaii is never in doubt. The discourse I witness each week on my radio program with “The Good Senators” is the vitamin for a healthy government. The public debate and discussion of ideas is a component missing from our political process.
This is what is so disturbing about the structure of politics at home. This session revealed a true lack of open debate and discussion of incredibly important issues. Put it this way: The only sunshine you’ll see in Hawaii is at the beach and not in government.
Closed-door meetings, on-the-rail conversations, horse-trading bills and downright surreptitious deal-making is the reality of our legislative process. Throw in a media that treats politics like a child forced to eat their broccoli and you have a potent combination of a secretive government operating without accountability.
Although government makes for an easy target, a critical eye must be turned upon the general public. Our representative democracy cannot function without full participation by the citizenry. Despite a presidential election with a “local boy” as a candidate, only 52 percent of eligible Hawaii voters made it to the polls last year!
There is no doubt that the faltering economy was the dominant issue. But state government, in its mandated quest to balance the budget, did everything in its power to take more money from you. Instead of instituting meaningful reductions in government expenditures, the state is set to hike taxes and fees by more than $1 billion for the next two fiscal years. Many bills are targeted at small businesses and entrepreneurs. The income tax rate increase, diminishment of Act 221 tax credits, an increase of the Transient Accommodations Tax and increase of the Conveyance Tax scratch the surface of how much cash will be taken out of our economy and into the government coffers. The repeal of various tax credits and exemptions also contribute to the eroding bottom line.
Feasible alternatives to tax increases to balance the budget were virtually ignored. There are also questions raised by lawmakers and the administration about communication skills.
Some observers were wondering where Gov. Lingle was. Claims that she rarely came down from the Fifth Floor are echoed among legislators. Forthrightness and a genuine desire to work with the administration was just a charade, according to Lingle supporters. Regardless, it’s the people of Hawaii who will pay in the end.
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