Hawaii’s taxpayers may get some money back this year. During the State address in January, Gov. David Ige proposed a bill to roll out $100 tax refunds for every taxpayer and their dependents.

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The cost of Senate Bill 3100 and its companion, House Bill 2132, totals an estimated $110 million. That’s a drop in the bucket when looking at the amount of money lawmakers have to spend this year. And that’s the point: the idea is why not put a little cash back into the pockets of taxpayers this year?

To put this in perspective, the state’s general fund balance totaled $1.25 billion, which means the state had this much money sitting around after everything was paid for. Meanwhile, thanks to the rebounding economy, tax collections are projected to top $8 billion for the first time ever, providing lawmakers with extra funds to spend beyond what Ige has budgeted.

Giving taxpayers some money back is allowed whenever the state general fund’s balance exceeds 5% of its revenues at the end of two consecutive years — which is the current circumstance.

On Feb. 2 the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard the bill. Its reception? Out of 10 pages of written testimony, only one person opposed the measure.

Some supporters offered minor tweaks. For instance, the Department of Human Services recommended revising the bill to include recipients of state benefits for general assistance and aged, blind and disabled people.

Taking the measure one step further, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii recommended setting $1 billion aside for refunds, returning $1,361 to each of Hawaii’s 734,673 taxpayers.

But Civil Beat wanted to know what local residents really thought of the governor’s idea, so we went down to Fort Street Mall on a recent Wednesday afternoon to find out.

Watch this short video to see what people think of the $100 refund idea:

Turns out, it’s a mixed bag. Most respondents said they’d take the money but some noted the relatively small amount wouldn’t make much of a difference and the state could spend the overall funds on other priorities.

Many people didn’t even want to discuss the issue because it was “too political.”

In his testimony the governor said, “I believe that SB 3100 gives us an opportunity to offer relief to taxpayers and their families while also injecting $110 million back into our economy.”

The bill does not yet have a hearing date in the House Economic Development and Finance Committees.

Hawaii’s Changing Economy” is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.

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