Hawaii offers a cautionary tale of a socialist future for the U.S.
ANALYSIS/OPINION by Matt Mackowiak, Washington Times, Wednesday, July 18, 2018
HONOLULU | It is often said that Hawaii is paradise, and it certainly appears that way on the surface. As I traveled here for a brief summer vacation, I was ready to unplug and enjoy myself. However, under the surface, I discovered some harsh realities.
Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation, even ahead of New York, according to a recent U.S. Commerce Department Bureau of Economic Analysis report scoring it as 16 percent more expensive than the national average.
Just how expensive is Hawaii?
According to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, a single person can qualify for housing assistance on Oahu while earning as much as $54,850 annually. A family of four only becomes too rich for housing assistance at $78,300. What would classify as middle-class America as a whole (median income around $56,000), is poor in Hawaii.
Housing costs are higher, too. As of 2016, the average home price in Hawaii was $905,000, far “ahead” of second-placed Massachusetts, at $580,000. In Honolulu, the average home price is $1.2 million.
According to CNBC, Hawaii has the second-highest tax burden in the country, just behind New York. The total burden is 11.57 percent, including a 2.2 percent property tax, a 2.85 percent individual tax and a 6.52 total sales and excise tax.
Daily expenses are higher, too. Hawaii has the most expensive gasoline at $4.17 per gallon, which includes the fourth highest gas tax in the country (49.1 cents.) Electricity rates are more than double any other state (37.2 cents per kilowatt-hour) and a gallon of milk is between $7 and $8 at most stores.
This may not surprise you, but just like many of our most expensive states and cities, Hawaii is entirely controlled by Democrats and has been for years. All statewide elected officials and all of the state’s federal lawmakers are Democrats. The 51-member state House has five Republicans and the 25-member state Senate is the only one in the country with no Republicans.
According to CNBC’s latest “best states to do business,” Hawaii was 47th and the state consistently ranks near the bottom in new business startups.
Homelessness is an urgent statewide problem. Other states pay to send their homeless populations to Hawaii. Honolulu repealed anti-vagrancy laws and the homeless population is everywhere, threatening tourism, which is the state’s top industry.
From a fiscal perspective, Hawaii is a ticking time bomb and a federal bailout request (like Puerto Rico) is easy to imagine. As of June 2016, the state’s unfunded liabilities totaled $24.6 billion, a figure that will rise a further $1.43 billion in 2019 alone. For context, the state’s budget for fiscal year 2016 was $13.8 billion.
Apparently unsatisfied with the state’s grim fiscal outlook and crushing tax burden, the state passed a rail boondoggle that would make California blush. The 20-mile Honolulu Rail Transit project, officially budgeted at $8.165 billion, has ballooned in cost. Panos Prevedouros of the University of Hawaii estimates that the mostly elevated rail project will cost at least $13 billion. Some private estimates put the cost at over $20 billion. Cities are required to contribute $44 million next year alone for the rail project and they are uncertain how they will do so….
read … The Washington Times