County’s tax hike plan filled with flaws

Having been a frequent visitor to Kauai for several years before becoming a resident, it was nostalgic to read the thoughtful letter from Wyatt Angelo (TGI, Feb. 26). He is right — our visitors are mostly “on demand” people who wouldn’t accept the inconvenience and frustration of public transportation. If Kauai did not have affordable rental cars, they would simply choose another destination.

The failure to acknowledge this reality is one of the major flaws in the findings of the multimodal transportation consultants on whom Kauai officials are periodically prone to waste taxpayer money.

As Mr. Angelo notes, Kauai officials are now considering imposition of a 1/2 percent increase in the General Excise Tax to fund road improvements and bus service expansion. Any tax increase is a poor idea and an excise tax increase is the one that hits working class people the hardest.

A recent (Feb. 25) 30-page promotion paper from the administration predicts that over its first 10 years the 1/2 percent GET supplement would generate $255 million of which (1) $98 million is proposed for road and bridge work and related facilities, (2) $93 million is proposed for “new transportation initiatives” and (3) $64 million for bus expansion and facilities.

In my view, the defects in this proposal are numerous and fatal. Admittedly, our roads need repairs and paving and our bridges need work. But the funds to accomplish this should not be coming from such a regressive new tax. We should not be entrapped by our state’s sly maneuver to have the counties rely on the excise tax increase, rather than obtaining their fair share of the TAT.

The cases for the other two purposes are amorphous and undemonstrated. It is folly to enact so large a tax burden with so little solid justification. No new tax of this nature should be enacted without a specific and binding expiration date.

We should seek the funds for necessary work from elimination of wasteful practices and from other less regressive taxes. It is also unacceptable the funds from the increase should be arbitrarily allocated among the three stated purposes.

In particular, we should scrutinize any funds proposed for expansion of bus service. It cannot be offered on a basis where revenues equal costs, and expanded efforts for growth are likely to be increasingly deficit ridden.

As always, vigilance is needed to prevent an undue enlargement of our taxpayers burden.

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Walter Lewis is a retired attorney who lives on Kauai.

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