by Andrew Walden
As a candidate, Neil Abercrombie said over and over again, “We Will Not Be Raising Any Taxes."
But as Governor, Neil Abercrombie has a different message for many of Hawaii’s seniors—you’re not contributing, you’re escaping your responsibilities and, as Governor, I will force you to “make positive contributions in our community.”
Abercrombie’s latest comments supporting his plan to tax pension income come in a written commentary in today’s Star-Advertiser. Abercrombie informs readers, “I have no problem with people who choose to move to Hawaii to retire and make positive contributions in our community. But it is not right for wealthy retirees to pay no state taxes on the pension part of their income….”
Many retirees will be surprised to learn that the newly elected Governor has a problem with many retirees and thinks he is entitled to determine who among them are “making a positive contribution.” Abercrombie has clearly drawn a line between retirees and “our community.” This from a governor who likes to burble about how Hawaii is “a model of tolerance and diversity for the world.”
Who are these “wealthy retirees?” According to Abercrombie, you are “wealthy” if you have “an annual federal adjusted gross income (over) $37,500 for single filers and $75,000 for couples.” Abercrombie assures readers that “fewer than half of current pensioners will be affected” – translation: “almost half of you will be forced to pay”.
Mr “Tolerance and Diversity” has a message for retirees: “…we ought not continue a tax break that encourages people to move to Hawaii to retire to escape these responsibilities.”
State retirees are hit hard by Abercrombie’s tax hike proposal and they and many other retirees are life-long residents. Who is Abercrombie trying to fool? Is Abercrombie purposefully trying to paint retirees as malahini? Is this kind of divisive rhetoric appropriate from a State Governor?
Many Vietnam veterans are among the retirees Abercrombie today claims are “escaping their responsibility” – did Abercrombie escape his responsibility in the 1960s by avoiding the draft?
Abercrombie’s headline could be galling to many seniors: “Pension tax would end preferential treatment.”
Did Abercrombie’s government employee unions get “preferential treatment” when Abercrombie secretly boosted the State’s contribution to their health insurance by $126M?
Are Abercrombie’s cronies in the HSTA and HGEA getting “preferential treatment” from having the DoE evade a full top-to-bottom audit every year since 1974? One of the few campaign promises Abercrombie appears to be keeping is his pledge not to audit the DOE.
Who is inside “our community” as defined by Abercrombie? In his Star-Advertiser commentary, he explains: “We can't afford for anyone to sit still while others shoulder the burden. We are rebuilding our economy, getting people back to work, restoring pride in our public workforce….”
Ironically, “our public workforce” does not include state or county retirees. Civil Beat February 3 estimates that Abercrombie’s pension tax will seize a minimum of $2,386 from state or county retirees making $37,500/year. State retirees will also be soaked for at least an extra $1,385 per year by Abercrombie’s proposal to eliminate reimbursement of Medicare Part B.
Other tax hikes such as the soda tax, alcohol tax, vehicle weight fees, and the elimination of the state income tax deduction are all regressive—meaning they hurt low income people disproportionately hard—and they all dig deeper into the pockets of fixed income seniors. Meanwhile utility rates are going up to subsidize Hawaii’s legions of wealthy green energy scammers.
Civil Beat February 3 estimates “Total Impact of Abercrombie's proposed tax hikes: A single state retiree earning a pension of $37,500 would pay a minimum of an extra $3,894.25.”
State retirees do not get a vote on HGEA, UPW, HSTA, UHPA, SHOPO, or Firefighters’ contracts. They also don’t get to vote in union leadership elections.
Hawaii seniors vote and they are angry. An Abercrombie voter writes to Maui News:
With Linda Lingle, I thought things couldn't get any worse. With Neil Abercrombie, the worst is yet to come.
His proposals have insulted me. If one more politician tells me I have to share the sacrifice for their incompetence mismanaging government, I will vomit.
Commenting on the Star-Advertiser article one Hawaii senior writes:
“’End preferential treatment’ -- What a complete hypocrite. In the first few days in office Abercrombie gave the DOE >$70 MILLION by raiding our Hurricane and Rainy day funds. Abercrombie has in FACT given preferential treatment to DOE and UH yet will force retirees and non DOE/UH gov't unions to pay for our growing State gov't debt. Also what about the $6-$10 BILLION dollar rail project? Why hasn't Abercrombie demanded to get a full accounting of the rail project to see if the State of Hawaii can actually afford this massive cost instead of just targeting the LEAST influential groups in our society; our elderly.”
How arrogant is Abercrombie? He begins his conclusion with this whopper: ”Throughout this legislative session, we will continue to have dialogue and I am open to other ideas. However, we will not entertain ideas that shield the interests of some in order to shift responsibility to others.”
Another senior writes:
“‘Pension tax would end preferential treatment’? Nothing but a belated and desperate attempt by the governor and his people to justify a huge political mistake. He has awakened an otherwise docile senior group into an angry political force. What will make his actions worst for the Democrats is that he, who has benefited immensely by being a member of the party throughout his lifetime, has just handed back the fifth floor of the State Capitol to the Republicans.”
Abercrombie: “Pension tax would end preferential treatment”
Bill Text and Status: HB1092
Bill Text and Status: SB1319