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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Raising taxes always an alternative to cuts

That was an interesting illustration of the squeeze facing the city during a mara-thon public hearing Wednesday night on its new budget.

According to staff writer Curtis Lum, most of the 350 people who signed up to testify pleaded with the council not to cut what is already a relatively lean budget.

The pleas came, naturally enough, from city officials who are trying to keep their programs on track. But they also came from private citizens who like what the city is doing with their tax dollars and want to see it continued.

But Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said there simply won't be enough money to keep everything at today's levels. Some cuts will have to happen.

This dialogue took place as if no one noticed that huge ugly bear sitting at the debate table: property taxes.

If citizens truly don't want to see any further cuts in city programs and services, the answer is simple: Raise property taxes. Now, no one wants to hear that, and no politician is likely to make that solution a top campaign plank. But it is simple enough.

And there should be a direct link between the amount of property taxes collected and the amount of programs and services bought with those dollars.

Rather than rationalize that relationship, there is an ongoing tendency to find a way out of the squeeze by picking up spare dollars from one-time sources or non-recurring surpluses. The political reasons for doing that are understandable, but it is not the most rational way to do business.