This week we’ll look at another general-excise-tax exemption that the State Auditor has put under the microscope in Report No. 20-05. It affects the construction industry, and the price tag the auditor put on it, based on 2018 numbers, was $19 million.
You may remember back in the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, independent businessman and candidate Ross Perot argued, on live TV: “We have got to stop sending jobs overseas.”
Our Legislature will be reopening soon, and some lawmakers are undoubtedly thinking of ways to make our budget balance, because the grim reality is that much of our economic engine has ground to a halt and is no longer spinning out tax revenues.
In an article in this space just a couple of weeks ago, we growled and grumbled about the possibility that our governor, having already suspended laws and chapters in the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes in a listing 17 pages long, would start monkeying with the tax code.
By now everyone knows that we’re in a state of emergency. There’s a virus spreading through the population and killing people. There’s no vaccine, and no confirmed effective therapy such as drugs, so if you get sick from it there’s a chance that it will be game over for you.
On March 5, our governor issued a proclamation declaring our current state of emergency. The proclamation suspends several laws, including chapters 89 and 89C, HRS (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes), relating to collective bargaining and public officers and employees excluded from collective bargaining, to the extent necessary to, among other things, “provide for the interchange of personnel, by detail, transfer, or otherwise, between agencies or departments of the state.”
Senate Bill 2696, which the Senate has just given to the House for consideration, is a bill “Relating to Green Fees.” These green fees have nothing to do with playing golf, however; they are per visitor, per stay charges the money from which goes to protect and preserve the environment. Some national governments already charge them, including the Republic of Palau, New Zealand, and the Maldives. So, SB 2696 is calling for a feasibility study and implementation plan, assuming that the fee will be charged beginning in 2022.
Some of the bills making their way through our Legislature are sponsored by executive departments. One such department, the Department of Taxation, is behind a few of them. One of them worth mentioning, introduced as SB2922 and HB2366, proposes to change some criminal penalties in our transient accommodations tax (TAT) law to civil fines … and “to make various technical amendments,” as the bill summary states.
We have occasionally written about a “carbon tax,” something environmentalists appear to be supporting enthusiastically. The basic idea behind one is that a tax is placed upon the purchase of all fuels that result in carbon emissions when the fuel is burned to release energy. The amount of the tax is based on the type of fuel and is priced to be a certain dollar amount per metric ton of carbon emitted into our atmosphere.