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HOOSER: Time to get our priorities straight

“When they tell you there’s no money, what they’re really saying is it’s not a priority.”

This, my friends who are new to policy and politics, is a teachable moment. I learned this essential fact of policy and politics 15 years ago, and it still rings true.

Numerous reports are predicting a state budget surplus of up to $2 billion this year. Literally thousands are living on the streets, those same streets are full of potholes, affordable housing remains a pipe dream, and publicly funded elections sit waiting on the sidelines.

Yet legislators are poised to give $90 million back to the top 20 percent of income earners in the form of tax breaks, and sock away $500 million more into the so-called “rainy day fund.”

Helloooo. It’s raining now. The rain is pounding hard daily on the unhoused, and the dark cloud surrounding the influence of money on elections will not go away until the Legislature takes decisive action.

Our county government is also sitting on a significant budget surplus, and likewise is unfortunately focused on doing whatever they can to not invest these funds to solve our many problems.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate efficiency and effectiveness as much as anyone. I also appreciate the need to budget for future needs. But our immediate needs are great, and we have the resources available. How much rain is needed before our government will act?

So why not move forward and invest in our community?

Why not invest those funds in badly needed infrastructure, such as expanded sewer and wastewater systems? Why not invest in expanded support for youth programs and improve community parks?

What about revisiting the youth drug treatment facility we invested millions in, and then abandoned because it became too complicated to figure out?

The cost of living is high, and people are struggling. So, yes, let’s extend tax relief to those in need.

But the reality is the current budget situation at both the state and county levels allows us to do both.

And on top of the existing budget surpluses, both the state and the county have the opportunity today to raise even more funding via a state “green fee” on tourism arrivals, and increased county property taxes on hotels and second homes.

Remember that fundamental truism stated in the opening sentence above, and share with Kaua‘i policy-makers your priorities. Ask them to put the building of truly affordable housing and publicly funded elections first. Request they also eliminate tax breaks for the top income earners, and focus instead on those truly in need.

Please. Your voice matters. Call and/or send an email today. Let those poised to vote on these issues know what’s important to you, and where you think our government should be investing your hard earned tax dollars.

To support publicly funded elections Senate Bill 1543, affordable housing and other issues now before the state legislature, contact:

• Senate President Ron Kouchi, senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov;

• Rep. Nadine Nakamura, repnakamura@capitol.hawaii.gov;

• Rep. Luke Evslin, repevslin@capitol.hawaii.gov;

• Rep. Dee Morikawa, repmorikawa@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Ask Kaua‘i County Council members also to prioritize the construction of new permanent affordable housing, new wastewater infrastructure, youth programs and park improvements: at councilmembers@kauai.gov

Important votes will be happening in the very near future at both the state and the county levels. It’s important that citizens engage their elected officials who will be casting those votes.

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Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Source: The Garden Island

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