Legislators, please have pity on the working man and woman
With the 2008 session at a close, state legislators have come to the taxpayers of Hawaii with a message of "mission accomplished."
In their eyes, we are better off now than we were two years ago because they succeeded at passing bills to purchase Turtle Bay, mandate solar panels on all new houses, create new commissions and new ways to regulate us, rebuke the governor for declaring emergencies, and best of all, they gave us a $1 tax credit. People of Hawaii, it's time for some honest talk: Our Legislature just doesn't get it.
At present, Hawaii has the second highest state tax burden in the United States. During the last 30 years, inflation-adjusted income in Hawaii has risen by 44 percent compared to the national average of 68 percent. What $100 would have purchased in Honolulu in 1982 now requires $220.
On Oahu alone, 954 people are collecting unemployment from the state as of April, 486 of whom happen to live in my hometown of Waipahu.
The people of Hawaii are absolutely struggling to make ends meet, and yet the state collected $217.6 million in general excise taxes and $68.2 million in income taxes as of March. The Legislature says that it can't afford to give us more than a dollar in tax credits because it has to pay the bills, but legislators are the ones who are drafting all the bills to spend more and more of our hard-earned money each session at a time when our economy is in a crunch!
They come knocking on our doors every two and four years asking for our vote with the words "trust me," yet they think that the best way to show us that they did a good job is to mail us a summary of the millions of dollars they appropriated to spend on projects in our districts, dollars that would be better off being in our pockets and in our bank accounts.
They want us to believe that when they spend our money, it's good for us, but when we spend it, it's inflationary. Our legislators are scratching their heads about how to make Hawaii sustainable and how to develop new industries all the while they are crushing our ability and incentive to save, invest and produce.
If our Legislature has really done so well over the last two years and their leadership is so competent, then why is our economy in such shambles? For all their regulation of the environment and doling out of welfare, shouldn't they be able to present to us some proof that Hawaii is getting stronger, richer and more prosperous? Instead, the government has made us more dependent, more regulated and more frustrated -- all marks of a socialist state in the making.
It's time for our Legislature to realize that the way to reopening the door to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Aloha State is for government to get out of the way of the people. We need to cut and repeal state taxes wherever possible, while simultaneously reducing the size of government and its budget. When you've got a credit card that's reaching its limit, you don't keep making charges on it. We need to shrink our state government, shutting down or consolidating wasteful, redundant operations.
We also need to stop issuing grants in aid with such a liberal application that nonprofits have become dependent on the Legislature. All of us need to learn how to spend within a budget and work with what we have, not with what we want at the expense of others. Let's tell our lawmakers to try shrinking the size of government before they shrink our paychecks.
I believe in Hawaii; I believe in America; and most of all, I believe in our God-given power to prosper. The people of this great and mighty state must get back on track toward prosperity; that is what the American Dream is all about. People want to invest, they want to provide for their families and they want to have a future. Isn't it time that our Legislature let us decide our own destiny?
Daniel de Gracia has a master's degree in political science and lives in Waipahu.