Hawaii’s Sleight-of-hand Taxes

What, pray tell, is so difficult about saying “due to our precarious budget situation, we have decided on a modest increase in the state income tax rate.”

Not the GET, mind you, because that’s repressive and hits the lowest earners, percentage-wise, equally with the highest.

Not the property tax because that’s regressive against those on lower-end fixed incomes.

But those four words – “raising the income tax” – seem to cause paralyzing fear in otherwise flexible and well-meaning legislators.

So they raise the money through sleight-of-hand tax.

Ending excise tax exemptions for some construction contracts, shipping, airline and cellular phone companies – who will pass the loss on to you. That’s a tax in price-hike clothing.

Also tapping a higher rental car “surcharge.” Ending some state income tax deductions. I call that roughly a $350 million tax hike!

The chicken hearts (is “lily-livered” out of style?) would not, however, tax pensions of people with sky-high incomes. Forty states do that.

It was a no-brainer but had the word “tax” boldly stamped on it and was roundly booed by AARP and union seniors.

So, dead on arrival.

We’re at a time when our budgets should only serve core services: health, education, policing and fire-fighting, roads, sewers, water, critical welfare provisions, building safety and transportation.

The state spends heavily on occupational licensing and inspections.

How is checking out a barber shop’s combs and clippers a core service?

Real estate people say instant transaction registration is essential for their business. If so, their fees should pay the entire salary, office and supplies cost.

We cannot afford a lifeguard at every beach. I’d love to see Adult Friends For Youth funded because it’s great, but it’s not a core service.

Tax breaks for historic homes and buildings are admirable, but not right now.

Certainly no $2 million for the Royal Hawaiian Band. Nice music, but we don’t need it.

And we spend almost $1.8 million on “public communication.”

The Liquor Commission costs millions. We don’t need government checking to see if bar girls touch men’s crotches.

Municipal golf courses need to be self-sustaining financially without nongolers footing the bills.

If the users want them the users should pay for them or let them go private.

Those are not core services.

City-County narcotics and vice squads spend millions, a hunk for busting gamblers and prostitutes. Not a core service. No unwilling victims there.

Cut way back on Parks and Recreation costs by enlisting neighborhood people to do volunteer parks work.

Oh, yeah, the UPW says you can’t do that.

Watch politicians and agencies strike back with rebuttals that all those things are necessary. They’re not.

* It’s been my privilege in my years in journalism to get peeks into a few top-secret works of U.S.

Special Forces, Force Recon Marines, Army Rangers, Delta Force, Air Force Pathfinders and Navy SEALs.

But nothing as exquisite in its execution as the Osama bin Laden kill mission.

There are some truly amazing pros in uniform working for us.