Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Lingle “taxes” state workers

by Larry Geller

After promising not to increase taxes, Governor Linda Lingle has announced she will place the heaviest burden of tax increases on state workers.

Well, taking 14 or so percent of their pay and dumping it into the state treasury sure sounds like a tax. Trouble is, it’s a tax mainly on workers. Perhaps Lingle’s objections to raising taxes meant only that she objects to raising taxes on the rich.

While those in upper income brackets tend to invest, workers, whether public or private, spend their money locally. So this is a “tax” also on retail stores and every segment of the economy that depends on ordinary people. Kind of a reverse incentive that will hurt the economy somewhat.

Also, in Hawaii, one state worker may be supporting a multi-generational family. The loss of income could mean that an older person has to choose between food and medicine.

Whether it’s a worker’s family that can’t take care of its health or someone who will lose out when DHS announces how it will manage announced cuts to Medicaid, it’s important to keep in mind that when healthcare is impacted, some people lose their lives. They don’t get routine care or testing, and by the time something hurts enough, it could be too late.

What to cut? It’s a tough choice with no winners, only losers. Should there be a legal challenge to furloughs based on existing contracts, there needs to be a contingency plan. Furloughs sound better than layoffs, which is what Plan B would likely come to. At least the state workers still have their jobs and benefits. The state cannot print money, so the problem needs to be resolved. Other states have or are making similar painful decisions.

Lingle also announced cuts to Medicaid and the school budget. Even before the current economic crisis she withheld money from senior services. It seems that the most vulnerable citizens of Hawaii will bear the brunt of the Lingle budget balancing.

Stern mother figure

(The Star-Bulletin cover today depicts Lingle as a stern mother figure, perhaps. If only she really cared.

It reminded me of an old tabloid cover picture of Bush which gave me the thought, at the time, that if hung on the wall, it would have made a good dart board. Today’s Star-Bulletin is a little thin for that, but if you pick up a couple of free copies at Subway or elsewhere around town and clipped them together, perhaps it’s doable.)

The governor and the legislature have been at odds over how to deal with the budget crunch. There’s nothing funny about that. Perhaps if they found a way to get together on Hawaii’s problems there might be a chance of at least making the best of admittedly difficult choices. I’d love to see a picture in the paper of everyone at the State Capitol standing together to present their best effort.

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