The Governator Saves Hawaii $$$

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 08, 2008
Gov. Schwarzenegger

In light of the frightening news of our collective economic demise, there is a bright spot.

Hawaii consumers have been given a reprieve by none other than “The Governator.”

Yes, Conan the Rotarian threw us a dollar bone. The much maligned and detested California Container Bill has died, and nary a tear has been shed.

As I penned in the March 12 edition of MidWeek (“Getting Hit By The Governator”), “A bill being considered at the Capitol in Sacramento, SB 974, known as the California Container Tax Bill, would impose a $30 fee on each 20-foot equivalent unit. Since we import approximately 90 percent of our consumable goods in Hawaii (most through California), this tax would cost Hawaii residents an approximate additional $68 million. The price tag would translate to about $57 for every man, woman and child in the state per year. A family of four would have to pay more than $225 per year in additional expenses.

I know this does not sound like much to some - State Rep. Calvin Say would dismiss this as “plate lunch” money - but this is real cash that makes a real difference to families in our communities.”

A difference to be sure. With the devaluation of the dollar, the markets rife with uncertainty and housing prices dropping faster than a Terrell Owens pass in the numbers (sorry, I can’t stand the Dallas Cowboys), every dollar saved is a dollar appreciated.

Although reports coming out of California led us to believe that Gov. Schwarzenegger would relent on previous vetoes and approve the passage of this bill, a funny thing happened on the way to the signing.

California is embroiled in one of the worst economic situations ever. He said in his veto message, “Given the current economic downturn, it is vitally important that the state does not worsen the situation by mandating added costs on business that do not provide any public benefit.”

Well said, Ahnold.

Still, there has been brutal wrangling over the state budget. The author of the Container Tax Bill, Democratic Sen. Alan Lowenthal, was beside himself upon hearing of the veto: “I’m shocked. The governor is just wrong. ... I will never work with the governor on this bill again.”

Good. It appears, however, the real impetus for the change in Schwarzenegger’s direction came from two influential fellow governors. On the day before she was announced as Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, according to the Associated Press, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin penned a note to Schwarzenegger, saying, “Shipping costs have increased significantly with the rising price of fuel, and these costs are quickly passed on to Alaskans. This tax makes the situation worse.”

Gov. Linda Lingle also petitioned Gov. Schwarzenegger. Her diligence on this issue goes back at least four years ago when the idea of a container tax was germinating. Credit the governor for taking the lead on this issue and it’s ultimate resolution.

Our congressional delegation deserves kudos, too. Between the GOP nominee for Vice President, a two-term GOP Hawaii governor and the diligence of the 49th and 50th state’s congressional representation, we will be paying less for goods and merchandise shipped into Hawaii via California.

While we are recognizing diligence and hard work, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce gets high fives and atta boys for its aggressive efforts in informing the public of this insidious tax and its equally concerted lobbying efforts at several levels of local and national government. Jim Tollefson and his team can always refer to this issue as a “We did it!” moment.

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