Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, May 14, 2023
Ding Dong, the Green Fee is Dead
By Tom Yamachika @ 6:00 AM :: 2106 Views :: Taxes, Tourism

Ding Dong, the Green Fee is Dead

by Tom Yamachika, President, Tax Foundation Hawaii

Environmentalists are bemoaning the apparent demise of the “Visitor Green Fee,” a $50 charge that would need to be paid by whoever, as a nonresident, wants to visit parks, beaches, scenic sites, and other places of natural beauty.  Most of the population, they say, supports such a charge if it is going to be used to support those parks, beaches, and other scenic sites.  (Especially if tourists, namely folks other than the population asked, are going to pay that charge.)

The bill containing the fee proposal, Senate Bill 304, did not survive the conference committee process.  Interestingly, the bill passed third reading in the House on April 6, went over to the Senate from which it started, and the Senate disagreed to the House amendments on April 11.  It wasn’t until April 19 that Senate conferees were appointed, and it took an additional week, until April 26, that the House appointed conferees.  Those two weeks of dithering over conferees apparently took their toll, because the deadline for conference reports was a mere two days later, April 28.  The conferees hurriedly noticed a conference committee meeting for the morning of April 28, and then noticed a reconvening of the meeting on April 28th at 5 PM.  Under that kind of time pressure it would be tough to come up with a conference agreement that both sides would be happy with.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t.  Proponents of the bill get to try again next year.

Why did the bill go down in flames if, as its proponents have said, everyone supported it?  As with many proposals, the devil was in the details.  Unlike non-U.S. locales like Palau and the Galapagos Islands that can and do impose entry or exit fees at the airport, the power of our state to slap fees on people is limited by the U.S. Constitution, and we can’t simply do the same thing that those other countries are doing.  Lawmakers came up with some elaborate constructs to get around this issue – the $50 will be charged for an “annual license” to see our natural attractions, for example –but how would it ever be enforced?  Would state scuba divers suddenly surface beside unsuspecting swimmers, demand to see their $50 payment or a driver’s license, and haul them off to the hoosegow when they can produce neither on the spot?  Or would uniformed officers on horseback gallop up to a tent of beachside partygoers and line them up, all with smartphones in hand, to see who paid their fifty bucks and got the “I’m licensed, are you?” QR code?

And, if the real problem is that not enough money is being spent to maintain our land and natural resources, isn’t the solution at the budgeting table whether or not there is a “dedicated” or “targeted” revenue stream that this bill is supposed to provide?  After all, even if lawmakers say that green fee revenue can only be used for natural resource conservation, there is nothing to stop those at the budgeting table from “repurposing” general fund money that otherwise would have gone to conservation.

For that matter, there is nothing to make the agencies that are given our precious tax dollars spend the money as opposed to letting it pile up unused (compare, for example, what happens with TANF funding, as we recently reported).

Thus, at the end of the day, even if the bill passed and we started milking our tourists even more, would we really be able to pull down the revenue that this bill promises?  And how do we know whether that revenue, even if it materializes, will in fact support needed conservation efforts as opposed to either gathering dust in a bank somewhere or being squandered on something entirely unrelated?

Green fee supporters and lawmakers, you certainly can try again next year.  But I suggest that you give some thought to the issues we are discussing here to make sure that your hard-earned funding goes where it is supposed to.

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

AntiPlanner

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

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

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 Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

HIEC.Coop

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Moms for Liberty

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

OurFutureHawaii.com

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT