Want To Give Our Kids A Future? Change The Way We Tax Wealth - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Jeanné Kapela

Jeanné Kapela represents District 5 (portions of Keaau, and Kurtistown, Mountain View, Glenwood, Fern Forest, Volcano, Pahala, Punaluu, Naalehu, Waiohinu, Hawaiian Ocean View, Hookena) in the Hawaii State House of Representatives.

Amy Perruso

Amy Perruso is an educator who represents House District 46 (Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley) in the Hawaii Legislature.

Enhanced revenue should come from those who can afford to pay more including large corporations and out-of-state investors.

Whatever our background, birthplace or age, most of us believe in leaving a Hawaii for our keiki that is happier, healthier and more prosperous than it was during our time. 

We want our schools to deliver the best education possible to our youth. We want a public infrastructure that makes life convenient and safe, and that will stand up to the impacts of climate change.

We want a health care system that keeps us going strong so we can enjoy a lifetime of memories together. And we want to solve the affordable housing crisis and end our epidemic of outmigration and homelessness once and for all.

Our government can deliver all of this and more, for our families and for future generations — but only through a tax system structured to draw down the necessary revenue to fund big-picture solutions to these problems.

We believe that this enhanced revenue should come from those who can afford to pay more, from large corporations and from out-of-state investors currently profiting more than ever off of Hawaii’s real estate and other resources.

We need to change the way we tax wealth, and a strong majority of Hawaii voters agree according to a recent poll of 500 registered Hawaii voters conducted by Target Smart: 

More than 60% of those polled believe the super-rich are paying less than their fair share.

When paired with investments in our future, Hawaii voters support higher taxes on the rich to pay for affordable housing (72%), K–12 public education (63%), and a system of public health care (58%), among other priorities. And 87% of those polled agreed with the statement: “The ultra-rich should pay what they owe in taxes and not expect working families to continue to subsidize more than their share of taxes that support our roads, schools, and infrastructure.”

What We Can Achieve

Our state budget is the road map elected officials create to guide our government’s actions, and it is a statement of our priorities as a community. For decades, we have underfunded every critical public element of society — from our schools to our roads and transit to our affordable housing supply.

At the same time, lawmakers in the past have structured our tax system to provide exemptions, loopholes, subsidies and other advantages to corporations and the rich, who have accumulated unheard of levels of wealth as a result.

This extreme level of wealth inequality is not only dangerous to democracy — providing enormously outsized political influence to a small group of CEOs and hedge fund managers — it also robs the public of the resources needed to create an equitable future.

As elected officials deeply committed to building a better Hawaii for our keiki, we are proud to stand with advocates and elected officials from across the country, who are coming together to make a concerted effort to pass tax reforms that will transform the way wealth is taxed and used for the public good.

Leaders from eight states, stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic, have introduced policy proposals to close loopholes, reevaluate exemptions, and more fairly assess the tax burden the super rich should pay to sustain and improve the societal system our keiki will inherit from us.

Here in Hawaii, we’ve introduced bills that will: 

• Eliminate the loophole that allows capital gains — profits from the sale of capital assets such as stocks, bonds, antiques, art and Hawaiʻi real estate — at a lower rate than regular earned income from work (House Bill 232, Senate Bill 358) and

• Eliminate an exemption from the estate tax for the transfer of real property by wealthy non-residents to their heirs (House Bill 151, Senate Bill 345).

In the immediate future, we advocate for some of this revenue to go toward the strengthening of tax credits for working families — targeted income relief to stabilize hardworking locals so they can remain in Hawaii, able to pay their bills and able to take care of their families. Looking further afield, we urge our fellow lawmakers to think long-term about what kind of revenue the state will need to overcome the problems of the 21st century.

Our current budget surplus is temporary. Consider that a one-time, $300 million investment in affordable housing can create roughly 1,500 affordable housing units. But we need more than 50,000 affordable housing units in the next three years just to catch up to our current demand. 

We need a dedicated revenue stream — year after year — to deliver on the promise of opportunity for our people.

Instead of allowing our tax system to deepen wealth and income inequality — harming our democracy and putting the quality of our collective future at risk—we propose that our colleagues in the Capitol join us in embracing tax fairness, and in asking the rich to pay a fair share to fund our future.

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About the Authors

Jeanné Kapela

Jeanné Kapela represents District 5 (portions of Keaau, and Kurtistown, Mountain View, Glenwood, Fern Forest, Volcano, Pahala, Punaluu, Naalehu, Waiohinu, Hawaiian Ocean View, Hookena) in the Hawaii State House of Representatives.

Amy Perruso

Amy Perruso is an educator who represents House District 46 (Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley) in the Hawaii Legislature.

Latest Comments (0)

Increase the penalties for all law breakers. Go after them with a $vengeance$ and make it oh so painful. We all know those who are breaking the laws and getting only a slap. Financial institutions, Labor Dept, Welfare Dept, DCCA, OSHA, to name a few could go into high gear. PPP loans invited fraud then many didn’t have to pay it back. Fraud and corruption by people we know is taking away $ from those who really deserve it. People are so lazy and so greedy and in need of power (ego). Not what mommy and daddy taught some of us about life. Politicians and journalists seem to get wrapped up in thinking they’re in a popularity contest vs doing what’s right for the rest of us. Use a portion of the penalties towards a fund that can help those who truly need it. Don’t penalize the wealthy, go after the law breakers, the criminals.

ifusayso · 7 months ago

Wow. Motherhood & Apple Pie arguments...surveys with loaded questions (of course it's better to tax anyone richer than me!)...pandering to the PC gods. Are these the BEST folks we can elect to run our State? So depressing. How much longer are we voters (and you non-voters are just as guilty, too) gonna keep on embarrassing ourselves?

BigMomona · 7 months ago

The biggest three problems with all estate and wealth tax laws (present and proposed) that I have seen over the years are:thresholds are not automatically indexed for inflation;primary residences and family businesses (e.g., farms) are not excluded;most importantly, they are designed to ensnare primarily the upper-middle class, especially owners of medium-sized businesses, while the truly rich can easily avoid these taxes through a multitude of legal maneuvers.

Chiquita · 7 months ago

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