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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tax hikes strike but not at legislators

By David Shapiro

Government employees escaped sacrifices in a week of budget cuts and tax increases, and they're the only ones smiling as we "flASHback" on the news that amused and confused:

  • Legislators kept their 31 percent pay raises and spared other public workers cuts by socking taxpayers with $300 million in new levies and then they congratulated themselves on their courage. It's easy to pretend bravery when voters never say, "Boo."

  • Lawmakers, squeezing more out of visitors despite record-low arrivals, raised the hotel room tax by nearly 28 percent. Next, they'll install a tin cup on the Duke Kahanamoku statue.

  • The Legislature raised cigarette taxes to help balance the budget, then slashed funding for smoking prevention programs. It makes perverse sense. They can't hope to collect more taxes from cigarette sales if the state teaches kids not to smoke.

  • Getting in on the fun, the Honolulu City Council raised property taxes, vehicle weight taxes, bus fares and fees for parking, golf and zoo visits. If you want to write a letter of protest, postage is going up, too.

  • Escapes from the Hawai'i State Hospital dropped from 49 in 1997 to only six last year. Why would anybody leave the only tax haven we have left?

  • Newcomer Ikaika Anderson thwarted comebacks by former councilmen John Henry Felix and Steve Holmes in the Windward City Council seat election to replace the late Barbara Marshall. There's no going "Back to the Future" when you're up against "Young Ambition."

  • A Maui judge ruled that there's no constitutional right to dance in bars, while the Honolulu Corporation Counsel said political candidates waving signs are constitutionally protected. So if drunken candidates brandish signs in bars, is that dancing or free speech?

  • The city signed a contract for online voting in Neighborhood Board elections. It'll make it much more convenient for voters not to show up.

  • A half-dozen people are running for Hawai'i Republican Party chairman. With unemployment at a 31-year high, folks will fight for any menial job.

  • Gun registrations in Honolulu are up 13.5 percent this year. Economists say it means the recessionary cycle has entered the "stick 'em up" phase.

    And the quote of the week ... from Rep. Marcus Oshiro, defending higher hotel taxes: "People are not going to stop coming to Hawai'i. We have the best bargains. We have the best industry. We have the best workers. We have the best attractions." If only we had leaders with a clue.

    Reach David Shapiro at (Unknown address).