Hawaii's poor can't catch a tax break from state
"Too much of nothing
Can turn a man into a liar,
It can cause one man
to sleep on nails
And another man to eat fire."
» Bob Dylan
WHILE Hawaii vows to change, every year the state finds it easier to make the promise than to actually deliver on tax reform, with too much of nothing left for the taxpayers.
Hawaii is again getting noticed for its inability to keep its hands out of the pockets of the poor, as the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reviewed Hawaii's attempt to assist the working poor.
The biggest effort to help the poor this year was in Senate Bill 1882, which increased Hawaii's low-income tax credit from $35 to $85 per exemption.
"It will leave Hawaii among the 10 worst states in every measure of income tax burden on poor working families with children," the report from the Washington, D.C., think tank said.
Translated into real dollars, the new law, which starts next year, would still leave a family of four earning $25,770 with a state tax bill of $482, according to the research facility.
THE SAME legislators that allowed their own salaries to increase from $35,900 to $57,852 over seven years have shown little ability to cut taxes.
"In Hawaii, we tax people who should not be taxed in the first place, then claim to help them by complicating the income tax structure with confusing tax credits. Last session produced more tax rhetoric than tax relief," said Sen. Robert Bunda, the former Senate president and the most influential Democrat who wants to cut taxes.
Earlier this year Sen. Carol Fukunaga was named to head a Senate committee dealing only with economic development and taxation. Fukunaga, first elected to the Legislature in 1978, said she immediately spotted the problem Hawaii has with cutting taxes. Fukunaga explained that the Legislature puts everything it and the governor want into the budget and then if there is anything left over, it can be used for tax relief.
Obviously, nothing was ever left over and that's how Hawaii's Legislature delivers a whole lot of nothing in terms of cutting taxes. Two tax bills this year were passed to comply with the state Constitution and partially restore some of the tax credits taken away a decade ago.
GOV. Linda Lingle has earnestly urged the Legislature to stop taxing the poor, but now that tax returns have turned down, it is not likely that she will find any more tax-cutting converts.
Unlike those in the Dylan lyric "When there's too much of nothing, it just makes a fella mean," Hawaii's poor don't get mean, they just get taxed.