Hawaii’s Legislature hopes to avoid new taxes
The economy is starting to improve in Hawaii, and there is pent-up demand to restore budget cuts that have been instituted during the Bush-Obama recession. One could not seriously claim that there is anything pent-up about demand for services provided by the federal government, just further demands on American taxpayers and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing that manufactures American money. According to the popular press, honoring, or even observing the current debt ceiling would be an unpatriotic and dangerous game which could only be proposed by fringe groups who are unqualified to govern an important country like the United States.
In Hawaii, and in most other states as well, there are limits to even what lawmakers can promise, and I rate that as a good thing. The leaders of their respective chambers, both Democrats, took slightly different approaches, but neither one suggested that the state would be able to avoid choices. It is going to be either state-funded preschool, or more money for teachers and school buses, but not both.
New Speaker of the House Joseph Souki has served as its presiding officer before, and even convinced a couple of Republicans to support him this time as a reformer, for which they were rewarded with vice-chairmanships on a couple of legislative committees. We were rewarded with a little drama as the old guard protested and serial recesses were called to whip a 30-20 vote in favor of the new committee assignments and leadership. (For perspective, there were seven Republicans elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives for the current legislative session.)
The speaker began his remarks by saying, “We have the chance now to rebuild what the recession took away.” But he followed up by suggesting that the state’s personal income tax is too high, and I suspect that, at 11%, most of us would agree with this.
New Senate President Donna Mercado Kim took a different tone in her first speech as the leader of her chamber. In her opening day remarks, Kim stated: “I hope, first and foremost, that there’ll be no new tax burdens thrust upon our citizens and that we will not automatically open the taxpayers’ pocketbooks to every budget request, to every new proposal and every new capital improvement project.” She added, “Re-evaluating and reassessing what we have in place may not sound sexy or innovative or sell newspapers, but we must discipline ourselves to do this if we are to be more efficient and effective than we have been.”
If the president’s inauguration speech sounds anything like this next week, I will be surprised, but delighted.