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Prepare for life to get a lot more expensive


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POSTED: Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wednesday is going to be an expensive day!

Bring another quarter if you're taking TheBus.

Driving instead?

Bring extra quarters if you plan on parking at Kapiolani Park, and fill your gas tank on Tuesday, or that tank of gas could cost a few dollars more.

Taking in the Honolulu Zoo? Three hours for a family of four will cost you $21, including parking—about double what you'd pay if you can make it before Wednesday.

Better get that round of golf in, too. It'll cost $114 for your foursome playing with two golf carts—$18 more than if you can squeeze in a round on Tuesday.

And then, the taxes. Real property taxes, hotel room taxes, conveyance taxes, income taxes, cigarette taxes and taxes on gasoline all are going up on Wednesday, July 1.

The start of the new fiscal year also launches a slew of tax and fee increases passed by lawmakers who faced some of the toughest budgeting decisions anyone can remember.

“;The scope and scale of these tax increases—I've never seen this many and this large amount of tax increases piled upon the public,”; said City Councilman Charles Djou, a frequent critic of government spending.

It all means less money in everybody's wallet—and a double whammy if you happen to be a state worker facing a 14 percent pay cut through furloughs.

The furloughs are Gov. Linda Lingle's plan to make up the majority of a $730 million budget hole over the next two years. At the City & County level, Honolulu lawmakers had to find $50 million for the fiscal year.

Tax and fee increases come on top of hiring freezes, spending restrictions, program cuts and other cost-cutting moves made at state and county levels in an effort to stave off even more tax hikes.

And isle residents won't be the only ones affected.

Increases in bus fares and zoo admissions, the addition of the general excise tax on gasoline and a hike in the hotel room tax will also affect visitors.

All of it is to ensure government continues to function in the face of economic recession.

“;I remain concerned that we must be able to generate sufficient revenues to continue to provide for our basic city services,”; said Mayor Mufi Hannemann. “;And we must do so without continuing to have an impact on our residents' pocketbooks.”;

Still, the tax burden for local residents continues to grow.

Hawaii moves into the position of having the highest state income tax rate in the nation at 11 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, a national tax policy-analysis group.

The Legislature passed and then overrode the governor's veto of income tax legislation that adds three new tax brackets, with increases for anyone making more than $150,000.

“;The income tax increase makes Hawaii the most taxing state by some statistical measures,”; the Tax Foundation said. “;Not only does Hawaii now have the highest statutory income tax rate, 11 percent, but with the increase to 12 tax brackets they now have the most tax brackets of any state.”;

If any of this stresses you out enough to take up smoking, wait, the price of a smoke is going up a penny per cigarette, also on Wednesday.

By the way, if the tax or fee increases have you frustrated, don't send a text message about it while driving. That will cost you $67 if you're ticketed under the new “;hands-free”; cell phone driving law that also kicks in Wednesday.