A Bad Economy By The Numbers

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 15, 2011
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Spring is a tough time of year - not because of the weather, but filing personal income tax returns. It’s not the money involved, it’s the principal and interest that hurt.

There are so many forms to fill out, so many W-2 forms to collect and those difficult 1099s to retrieve. It seems like someone in Washington, D.C., is staying awake at night rewriting tax codes to generate more revenue for the federal government to spend on bailouts or ammunition to hunt down more terrorists. None of that bothers me very much, although spending our hard-earned tax money investigating political corruption is a little difficult to appreciate.

It always seems that around this time of the year, when every taxpayer is dedicated to meeting their tax obligations, that a bunch of depressing news is being published by some obscure Internet site.

One website announced that Hawaii was the toughest place to make a living because of an extremely high cost of living coupled with a fairly high tax rate, and the added news that Hawaii had the lowest adjusted average income at $22,107.96 (Moneyrates.com).

To make the tax-preparation period more disturbing, the National Low Income Housing Coalition announced that its figures showed that Hawaii, once again, had the most expensive rental housing in the nation. According to this cheerful group, the average wage for a renter in Hawaii is $13.65 an hour.

That works out to about $28,000 a year. That’s a little better than Moneyrates.com reported earlier.

Who are the taxpayers supposed to believe?

Our governor adds to the anguish by announcing that he had decided to raid the Hurricane Relief Fund on the first day of hurricane season.

A couple of days later, another national weather agency said that Hawaii was “most overdue” for a violent hurricane.

I was doing OK with all the negative news about Hawaii because we live in paradise, and there is a price to pay for living in a resort state.

So why complain?

I don’t know if anyone keeps track of tricky government accounting techniques, but our state Department of Taxation is pretty cool. It tells the government officials how much money it collects, the Council on Revenues has another meeting and tells the Legislature so it can decide how much money it has to spend.

If it’s not enough, legislators go looking for new tax revenue, as they did with the parking meter proposal. It would be neat if they altered the process so that we only spent what we collected.

Well, I was doing pretty good until I read about the state tax department’s plan to hire an independent auditor to review the revenue reporting and accounting policies and procedures after systemic problems were found in its reports by tax director Fred Pablo himself.

Worst yet, he’s only been in office six months. You have to wonder what he’s going to discover in another six months ... one year?

Those in charge are always telling us not to spend all we make, and then they do. They tell us what can’t be done and why, then they do it.

Now that’s scary.

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