What’s your fair share?

If you don’t know, you should. Because Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants it.

“We must pass a plan with sufficient new tax revenues that commits everyone to do their fair share,” Abercrombie said in a March 27 Message on the State Budget posted online. (The message appears below. Abercrombie’s comment begins at 1:17)

The governor says that if Hawaii’s citizens all chip in their due amount, the state will be “on the road to recovery.” Possibly in as few as two years.

But what is fair? Civil Beat decided to find out, so asked the governor to explain.

Here’s what Abercrombie Press Secretary Donalyn Dela Cruz told Civil Beat in an email.

“Thanks for watching the video – I hope that more people will take the chance to really listen to how we all have an opportunity to contribute.

“When the Governor uses the term fair he also wants people to think about it, so I appreciate that you’ve asked this question. It’s likely that what is considered to be fair to you or to your readers will differ. The Governor has presented what is at stake, rather, what is before us in this budget shortfall and what it means. It is his hope for people to truly think about what would be a fair contribution on their part to help in this process of moving forward.

“Being fair means, no one gets a free ride while others sacrifice to make change for future generations who are unable to represent themselves but are dependent on the choices that we make today. It will take everyone who calls Hawaii their home to do their part in making long-term investments to make Hawaii better.”

Her statement comes in a week where Senate Ways and Means is wrestling with the state’s budget shortfall and a range of options to raise revenue remain under consideration. Some members are expressing frustration that the administration hasn’t been more concrete about solutions.

Asked how Senate leadership interpreted the governor’s “fair share” comment, Jim Boersema, the Senate’s director of communications, said, “They know that the governor means all citizens must work together to get past this difficult economic time. Other than that they don’t feel it is appropriate to respond to ‘fair share.'”

The sole Republican in the Senate, Sam Slom, had some particularly choice words regarding fair share.

“Fairness is very selective,” Slom told Civil Beat. “Is it fair that a basketball player or a football player makes tens of millions of dollars a year playing a game? Is it fair that a CEO of a company has such a tremendous salary? There are a lot of things that are not equal and they’re not really fair. The only fair thing is allowing for a free, competitive market and encouraging that, rather than having an elite few in government try to tell everybody else what’s good for them.”

Slom said he often hears talk of dividing the financial pie fairly. “What I’m saying is, have a situation where you’re going to bake more pies and then everyone is going to benefit.”

The problem with fair share, Slom says, is that the people defining it are doing so for other people. “I take particular umbrage at the fact that somebody whose entire life is in government would tend to lecture those of us in the private sector, who have created the jobs, paid the taxes… We’ve paid our fair share while we’ve watched more and more people be exempted from either paying taxes or paying what they are deemed to make.”

Slom cited different organizations, like nonprofits, that are partially exempted from state tax roles. Slom says that a decrease in the proportion of Hawaii residents who pay taxes is smaller now than it was 10 years ago. “(This) increases the burden on those that are paying,” he says.

Georgette Deemer, House director of communications, did not respond to Civil Beat’s inquiry to House leadership about the “fair share” quote.