Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Finding revenue sources for Hawaii

by Larry Geller

Just because Governor Lingle, ideologically a Grover Norquist Republican, won’t discuss raising taxes doesn’t mean that the rest of us shouldn’t consider it, or that we shouldn’t explore other ways to increase revenues and avoid furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts as much as possible.

There’s probably no magic bullet, but there could be magic, if we are open to suggestions and willing to be innovative.

On taxes, under Bush, the burden on the wealthiest citizens decreased at the expense of the rest of us. It’s reasonable to consider how much of those tax breaks might now be taken back, in the spirit of sharing the burden of the economic crisis. I have not seen it stated any better than this:

The truth is that the wealthy have received more from America than most Americans—not just wealth but the infrastructure that has allowed them to amass their wealth: banks, the Federal Reserve, the stock market, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the legal system, federally-sponsored research, patents, tax supports, the military protection of foreign investments, and much much more. American taxpayers support the infrastructure of wealth accumulation. It is only fair that those who benefit most should pay their fair share.[cognitivepolicworks.com, 2/14/2006]

A couple of months ago I mentioned an ingenious calculator on a Yale University website that makes it easy to estimate how much revenue Hawaii could realize if it taxed beverages that are contributing to obesity and diabetes anyway. At the extreme, if we taxed both sugar-sweetened and diet beverages at 2 cents per ounce, the state could rake in $169,160,651. Now, that’s a pretty big tax bite on a bottle of soda, but there should be a reasonable compromise amount. Check out the calculator yourself and see what you think.

We need to get this discussion going. Perhaps now that the 2010 legislative session is about to begin, someone will start the ball rolling (hint to legislators and candidates for office in 2010).


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