Danny De Gracia: Ige Benjamins Will Only Go So Far. Let's Cut Taxes Instead - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

First there were Obama phones, then Trump Bucks, and now in 2022 we have the possibility of Ige Benjamins – proposed $100 tax refunds – to give local residents a little hope for something nice and unexpected from the government.

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Gov. David Ige shocked locals late last month when he suggested in his final State of the State address that he wanted to help struggling families and inject $110 million into the economy, “giving it a boost.”

Since then, all eyes have been on Senate Bill 3100 and House Bill 2132, the two Ige administration bills that would give locals a refund of $100, or $400 for a qualifying household.

Pardon me for being so cynical, but please kill these bills right now and let’s not have anything to do with these token, tainted and shortsighted proposals. The last thing Hawaii needs to do right now is to play games with money that would be better used to ensure existing operations and infrastructure are funded and working.

Now, I get it. In these tough, cash-strapped times, $100 can totally make or break your month. A hypothetical Ige Benjamin could go toward fixing a car, buying gas to go to a job interview, paying a cellphone bill or getting a desperately needed meal when you’ve been hungry all week.

Many of my friends are libertarians or fiscal conservatives, and they’re all about getting tax refunds. Some of them have even credited Ige as doing a “good” thing by offering this proposal. I don’t blame them, as that is, after all, their money to begin with.

But rather than “stimulating the economy” by giving tax refunds, it would have been better if those taxes hadn’t been imposed in the first place, especially when it comes to taxes on food, which people need to survive.

This is where the State of Hawaii upsets me. On one hand, we have the most powerful elected official in our local government suggesting in public that everyone get $100 back so they won’t struggle. On the other hand, both the Legislature and Ige’s departments are quietly trying to hike a plethora of taxes and various fees on the public, because supposedly we need even more money to run this already broken-down state.

So let me get this straight. We made so much “excess” revenues that we can afford to give Ige Benjamins to people in 2022, but we also need to raise taxes and fees to pay for local government?

During his State of the State address, Gov. David Ige said he wants to give Hawaii taxpayers a refund of $100 each to help struggling families and inject $110 million into the economy. Screenshot/2022

Generally speaking, the idea behind a social contract is that a government will assume certain roles for the public and provide benefits that will profit members of the public far beyond whatever they pay. Consider: A member of the public who visits a state office on Oahu will pay $1, and soon to be $2 an hour, for the privilege of parking and getting help that they’re already paying income taxes to have.

Meanwhile, the state lot or garage in which they are parking is most likely beat up, strewn with trash or medical waste, and overrun by homeless people.

The overworked clerks inside the state offices will likely be agitated, short-tempered and generally useless, telling visitors they’re in the wrong line, they need to come back with an obscure form or that the service they’ve requested is unavailable.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what our hard-earned money is paying for.

If this state had any sense of justice, most of the services we pay fees for – be it public parking, registration, applications, permits and so on – would be “free” and at no additional cost to us, because we’re already paying taxes for government.

Instead, the state shortchanges us, uses taxes and fees to pay for anything but what they were intended for, then wants to ask for more money each legislative session. Welcome to the Hawaii plantation of cons, scams and incompetent public service.

I would rather not get a paltry one-time payment of $100 and have things remain as they are, than to get a free Ige Benjamin only to pay, theoretically speaking, an additional $1,880 per year in fees.

Is that how we stimulate the economy? Give you a free cookie, but then starve locals in other ways? As the late President Ronald Reagan said, “government does not tax to get the money it needs; government always finds a need for the money it gets.”

So, here’s what we should do. Stop dreaming about buying four extra chicken katsu plates and call your legislator and tell them to take the $110 million and spend it on existing operations and infrastructure. Notice I said “existing operations and infrastructure,” because there are already some in our government who want to neglect those and use the $110 million on new projects. That too is nonsense. We should fund the existing government before trying to make new government.

I’d love to have a tax refund. But what I’d really like more than anything else is a state that functions properly and doesn’t nickel-and-dime taxpayers for more money when it already has the revenues to get the job done.

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

Couldn't agree with you more. Key point, we are a broken down town that can't maintain it's present infrastructure, let alone manage anything "new" like rail. Keep my Benji and give me a clean park free of homeless campers and a paved street to ride to work in and I will be a thousand times more satisfied.

wailani1961 · 4 months ago

We’ll take the money/200$ for a frugal retired couple little me will buy weeks of groceries -

Swimmerjean · 4 months ago

Honestly, the $100.00 state tax refund will last about two weeks in this household. Since moving to Hawaii in 2016, we adapted to beach outings by bringing cold slices of pizzas wrapped in aluminum foil. Lay it out in the open and let the sun reheats it. The $100.00 can buy two large pizzas, wings, and sodas. And we go to the beach three times a week… so two slices of pizza per outing.

Srft1 · 4 months ago

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