I hope you and your family enjoyed a wonderful Easter weekend. Below is a commentary I wrote published in the East Oahu Sun. With Hawaii now experiencing the highest gasoline prices in history, it is baffling that the politicians in the City government are actually contemplating an increase in the gasoline tax.
Hawaii gasoline prices have now floated to well above $4 per gallon. This makes the Aloha State the most expensive place in the nation to purchase a gallon of gasoline.
Our high prices are due in part to the increase in oil prices caused by the twin troubles of the instability in the Middle East and the recent earthquake in Japan. But this is only part of the explanation for Hawaii’s highest in the nation gas prices.
A much bigger part of our record local gas prices, however, is our record high gasoline taxes. At $.65/gallon, Oahu residents pay the highest gasoline tax in America. Nationally the gasoline tax averages only $.48/gallon. According to AAA, the current average price for gasoline in the U.S. is about $3.65/gallon. Comparing Hawaii’s gasoline prices to the national average, over half the difference is simply due to significantly higher taxes.
Higher gasoline prices place a big burden on local residents. Gasoline purchasing comes directly out of disposable income and reduces economic consumption. Worse yet, because Hawaii does not produce any petroleum, all of the financial resources spent on gasoline by Hawaii residents is sent outside of the state.
How has our local government reacted to this massive increase in gasoline prices driven by record levels of gasoline tax? By raising the gasoline tax still more.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and the Honolulu City Council appear ready to push through yet another gasoline tax increase and increasing our record gasoline taxes and record gasoline prices still higher.
This is sadly the all too common reaction of Hawaii politicians to difficult times. Instead of cutting government spending and finding ways to put more resources in the hands of average families, the reaction in government is to constantly increase taxes. It seems the common philosophy of Hawaii elected officials at all levels of our government is that the people were designed and created to serve the government, not the other way around.
Across our nation, state and municipal governments have aggressively sought to find new ways to reduce expenses and avoid burdening their residents with ever more taxes in difficult economic times. Honolulu should find a way to privatize its basic road repair services instead of always relying on an increasingly expensive civil service bureaucracy to fix our potholes. We should consolidate the State Highways Division and the County transportation departments together into one agency to reduce costs. Finally, we should implement civil service reform to find ways to reduce the overall cost of government. This is what common sense government organizations are doing in the U.S., but these ideas are not even being discussed at the State Capitol or Honolulu Hale.
Hawaii deserves a healthy competition of ideas and we don’t deserve a government that looks at families as bottom-less pits of money to take from every time there is a fiscal hiccup. We deserve a dynamic two-party democracy in our state and local elected officials willing to stand up for taxpayers. Until then I am afraid that all of us will just have to sit and take things like a gasoline tax increase in the middle of a recession amidst record high gasoline prices.
Charles K. Djou, Member of Congress (2010-11) Hawaii, 1st District