Some information has been brought to my attention on the intentions the state has in navigating the future burden of balancing the budget that I feel we should be aware of before January is upon us. I watched a Facebook Live presentation on a candidate for council’s page interviewing two state representatives, titled “State Legislature Update,” and I have a few issues with what was discussed that alarmed me in which I’ll share here.
Firstly, when it comes to the capital improvement projects such as the gymnasiums at the high schools, why is Waimea High school last on the list? It seems that Waimea comes last for everything. I had the same issue with the crosswalks. There were proper crosswalks throughout the island except for when it came to the Westside. It took multiple fatalities for the issue to gather enough attention for it to be solved. Having the House majority floor leader as a resident of Waimea should count for something, and I’m not saying that Waimea should always come first, but it most certainly should not always come last.
Secondly, the House majority floor leader made a statement suggesting the half percent increase in the GET that belongs to the county be retained by the state. In my opinion this is wrong, and I’m not sure it is even legal or ethical. The county needs that money that was approved for road-resurfacing to continue going towards that. We are no where near finished, and are finally solving an issue after years of neglect.
Third, final and most concerning, though, is the consideration of bringing in gambling and the lottery as revenue options, according to a what was said by the House majority floor leader during this interview. Let’s be clear. The state feels it’s an option to exploit the vulnerability of those facing financial hardships by taking their money reserves as “revenue” on the chance they will win money so they may make ends meat. Does it sound like the state has the wellbeing of its citizens in mind?
Instead, I pose an alternative solution: In order to balance the economic disparity caused by exploitation that results in drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, crime, homelessness, trafficking and ultimately suicide, let’s reallocate the taxes from the businesses profiting off the land, air, sea, spring, river, ‘aina, aloha, mana of the island, and have them stay on the island where generated to be dispersed to the residents as dividends paid like the Alaska Permanent Fund operates off oil profits. (The Alaska Permanent Fund is a constitutionally established permanent fund managed by a state-owned corporation, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, APFC. It was established in Alaska in 1976. As of 2019, the fund was worth approximately $64 billion that has been funded by oil revenues and has paid out an average of approximately $1,600 annually per resident.) This is a great comparison with something that can happen in Hawai‘i with our natural reserves. The ever-increasing cost of living will be offset and we will be able to participate in the free market as an island community instead of depending solely on tourists to shop at boutiques and frequent small-business establishments. It will lead to small-business growth which will in turn generate fair revenue in taxes for the state. For now, the state will just have to deal with the loss of revenue that wasn’t theirs to begin with and focus on hospitals and education, knowing how important it is to delegate responsibilities in order to succeed.
What needs to be understood by all of us is that even though labor unions came to rescue plantation workers from unjust working conditions, throughout the decades since absolute power corrupts absolutely, those in power at the state have become like the plantation owners and all of us residents have become like the plantation workers. This may seem extreme, but the concept is worth exploring. To be fair, the unions and the political players have gotten us to here, and it’s appreciated, but let’s all work together to finish the task so the word given to the people may be honored. The point is we are at a crossroads and the decisions of the past have lead us to our current situation. Do we want them to continue leading us down the same path? It’s time for new, innovative decisions at the state because the most-important aspect to these islands is its people, and we need to make the sustainable decisions that will allow for our children to raise their children here. Aloha cannot be faked, so if the state wants to sell it, then the residents need to be respected and the native culture and people honored. The future is now and the patience has run out.
Ana Mo Des is a resident of Kalaheo and a Republican candidate for District 16.