Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, December 26, 2021
More on 'Green Fees'
By Tom Yamachika @ 5:00 AM :: 2103 Views :: Environment, Taxes

More on Green Fees

by Tom Yamachika, President, Tax Foundation Hawaii

Once every five years or so, the Hawaii Constitution asks our government officials to put together a Tax Review Commission.  Its job is to “conduct a systematic review of the State’s tax structure, using such standards as equity and efficiency.”

To some people, it means it’s a chance to get in front of lawmakers and argue that we aren’t being taxed enough.

One of the proposals that the commission was urged to push was for the establishment of a “green fee.”  As its proponents put it:

Visitor green fees are used all around the world to generate revenue to protect natural and cultural resources, create green jobs, and enhance the visitor experience. Visitor green fees are payments made by tourists, primarily to regulatory entities, with the explicit purpose of funding natural resource management. This policy approach, now implemented in dozens of geographies worldwide, offers a solution to offset visitor impacts to ecosystems, and provides a means to protect nature that communities and tourists alike depend on.

Last year, we wrote in this space that the kind of green fees that are imposed in foreign destinations aren’t imposed in any state of the United States – probably because such a fee would be unconstitutional.  States have no right to burden the right of Americans to travel throughout the country, which means we can’t tax the entry or departure of mainland tourists.  And there is another part of the U.S. Constitution that forbids States from discriminating against foreign commerce, because that is a task left exclusively to the federal government.  So, we can’t impose such a fee on foreign tourists either.

To get around these restrictions, the proposal before the Tax Review Commission seeks to instead build on existing taxes and fees:

  • Using existing state Transient Accommodations Taxes or adding a TAT surcharge;
  • Implementing or increasing park and other user fees for outdoor activities;
  • Imposing general excise tax surcharges for certain visitor-related activities, services, and purchases; and/or
  • Some combination of these or other approaches.

The U.S. Constitution requires that if we kama’aina want to travel to another island and stay in a hotel, rent a car, or otherwise do touristy stuff, we are going to get whacked to the same extent as other tourists from other places.  Is that what we want?

We also need to realize that most of our economy is based on tourism.  When COVID-19 shut down our tourism, widespread pain and anguish was felt in our state between layoffs, business closures, and rent and mortgage defaults.  Taxing tourism to death might have the same impact.  “Now is not the time to visit the Islands,” Gov. Ige said in August because of our COVID surge.  Jacking up the taxes on the tourism industry is like telling the tourists that there isn’t ever a good time to visit the Islands.  Is that what we want?

So, before we go down the road to green fees or something like them, we should be asking ourselves if we really want to go there.

And by the way, Tax Review Commission, it’s questionable whether “finding new taxes” is in your job description when we have enough problems with the taxes we have.


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute


Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii


Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii


National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii


Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns


West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii