An Ultimatum In The Rail Debate

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 30, 2005

The latest in the debate about rail transit is the recent effort by Rep. Neil Abercrombie to shove the project down the throats of Oahu taxpayers. It is somewhat arrogant of Rep. Abercrombie to say, “If we don’t do it now, we’re never going to get it done. So my position is pretty clear. Come up with the local match for the money and we can move forward. Don’t come up with it, then don’t come and see me.”

This “take it or leave it” response is not helping an already trying situation. Instead, Rep. Abercrombie’s position is confrontational and should not be confused with leadership. On the contrary. His statements are inaccurate and contradictory. “If we don’t do it now, we’re never going to get it done,” he says. Yet recently he has said if we miss the deadline for the federal authorization, we would not be eligible for consideration for six years. This information was confirmed in conversation with state Department of Transportation director Rod Haraga just weeks ago on my radio program. In testimony before a state Senate committee, he said the deadline was July. Which is it, Rep. Abercrombie? Is it never or six years or July?

“So my position is pretty clear. Come up with the local match for the money and we can move forward.” In other words, increase the most regressive tax, the state general excise tax, by 25 percent or the federal money is gone. Rep. Abercrombie, living true to the principle of a liberal Democrat, has no problem throwing hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money around. His cavalier attitude toward what the financial impact will be on his constituency reveals a mindset that the public is an endless source of revenue. Does he realize that a family of four in his district will shoulder approximately $900 per year in added expense (Tax Foundation of Hawaii)?

“Don’t come up with it, then don’t come and see me.” This is all about ultimatum; all about muscle. If you don’t do as I say, I will not work in the future for a resolution. If you do not play my game, then I’ll take my ball and go home. We are talking about an expenditure of about $3 billion of your tax money. Regardless if the money is local, state or federal taxes, it is still your money. Abercrombie did not create this wealth. The state Legislature did not earn this money. It is taken from you in the form of taxation. The expenditure of this hard-earned money should be judicious and justifiable. The rail transit proposal, in its present form is neither.

Your elected officials should answer the following questions:

• What is the exact route?

• What are the specifications of the system?

• Exactly how much will it cost for the life of the system?

• Where will the stations be?

• What will the ridership be?

• How many cars will be taken off the road?

• Will you ride the train?

Don’t hold your breath for an answer, because there is no answer to these questions. Nobody has the answer because there is no rail transit plan. However, there is a cabal of politicians who have no qualms in using any tactic necessary to raise your taxes. Now, would you put up with this in the business world?

Of course not.

So why put up with it from people who work for you?

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