Time To End Sales Tax On Food

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - April 23, 2008

I feel like I am being priced out of paradise. Is it just me, or does it seem like the economic walls are closing in? I don’t recall a time quite like this. I know there have been challenging times in our history, but this is now and now sucks.

I do the grocery shopping in our family - two adults and two children. The cost of basics like bread, milk and eggs are through the roof. The cheapest supermarket gallon of milk costs $5. Eggs are hovering around $4 per dozen. Yes, there are specials to be had, but they are here one day and then gone the next. I was shopping at a Kapahulu supermarket and the sale price for a gallon of orange juice was $7.19 - on sale! There has been such a dramatic increase in prices that it is clearly affecting more and more families, sending some over the edge.

Why? I understand the punditry and their explanations. The energy costs, trade imbalances, the war, the mortgage meltdown, etc., are the usual suspects. Fine. I realize we must wean ourselves from foreign oil and truly promote alternative fuels. I get it that our national debt and trade deficits are affecting the value of our dollar, thereby weakening our economy. Although the fight is just, the cost of the War on Terror is substantial and is taking its toll on the general public. The credit contraction is affecting more than the housing market - every business and service is reliant upon financing.

However, all these observations of the seemingly obvious don’t do diddly squat for me now. The exploration of new petroleum deposits and seeking new refining capacities are years away, but I want to know what will help me on Tuesday. Our state has a budget of more than $5 billion a year. When our elected officials say we are facing a “fiscal crisis” or “budget deficits,” it’s not because we didn’t give enough money. It’s because those same elected officials have been failures at managing and prioritizing our cash. When they screw up, they have the audacity to tell us they have to take more. The worst part is most of us just roll over and ask, “How much?” So goes money and politics.

As of 2004, there are 12 states that charge full sales tax on food consumed at home. Although we have a General Excise Tax (GET), we are one of the 12. Think of us as The Dirty Dozen. It is immoral for our state to continue taxing us to eat at home. The GET is a pyramid tax, so the situation is even worse. The regressiveness of the GET is legend, and the fact it’s being charged on food is even more audacious. Gov. Lingle, to her credit, has cited this as terrible policy and has called for a repeal on the food tax as recently as this year. But Democrat law-makers are the culprits in collecting money because we have to eat to live. It is shameful that the state which prides itself on “Aloha” and a political party that recently claimed to be the “Party of Heart” would allow this deplorable money grab to continue.

It may be too late this legislative session to repeal the GET on food in Hawaii. But then again, stranger, last-minute things have happened. I call upon responsible legislators to respond to the cries of the citizenry for relief in these tough economic times. Stop adding to the substantial financial burden we all face and deliver the relief we need today.

Meanwhile, thank heaven for the savings available by using the grocery inserts in MidWeek. It’s remarkable how much you can save.

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