Opinion: Hawaii County should cut expenses

No one either likes to pay higher taxes or raise taxes. Neither the “giver” nor the “receiver” is happy when taxes go up.

Concerned that for the second consecutive year — in the midst of economic good times — the county would consider raising taxes to meet a growing budget, several business leaders met with our mayor and the managing director.


The meeting was cordial and covered many issues. Our budget point was that when it comes to taxes, this is a “zero sum game” — when what is gained by one side is lost by the other.

There is only so much money in the economy, and what the county takes from its residents is no longer available to those residents to meet their financial needs or improve their financial situation.

In an economy made up of small businesses competing against major mainland retailers and a resident base that is the most economically challenged in the state, such extractions are serious. As Harry Kim is quoted in the Tribune-Herald, speaking of a possible GET increase: “We’re taxing the people who can least afford to pay taxes.”

Context here is important. The county’s budget has grown from $175 million in fiscal year 2000 to what may well be $500 million in 2018 — a near tripling in less than 20 years. During the same period, the consumer price index has risen 46 percent for urban areas.

We have not had an explosion in population nor high inflation to explain the growth in our county’s budget. Nor can we point to new services, although we do understand that some federal and state mandates have added to the growth in budget.

Growth in county employment has been a significant contributor to budget increases. Government growth through employment growth is a long-term and expensive proposition. Nancy Cook-Lauer points out in her Tribune Herald article that:

• 12 percent of the budget is a payment toward pensions, and that will grow to more than 15 percent in 2018.

• An additional 12 or more percent of the budget is consumed by employee and retiree medical insurance.

This works out to more than 25 percent of the budget for employee fringe benefits. The point here is not whether employees are deserving of these benefits; the point is that they illustrate the long-term cost of employees.

We have no intent to micromanage the county, and we know that many intelligent, hard-working people are employed by our county. However that may be, we think the county must now look at how it can reduce expenses rather than increase revenue.

The business community is ready to help, if called to. We are ready to circulate to our chamber membership commissions that have available slots and are charged with reviewing government operations. We stand ready to do more if asked.


We see this as a serious problem that needs addressing, and that if not addressed, will increasingly sap the power of our businesses and community members to grow and survive in one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.

Bill Walter is president of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and president of W.H. Shipman Ltd.

  1. Scooby February 11, 2018 6:20 am

    Growth in government and government spending under Harry Kim has exploded to unmanageable levels. 2000-2008 out of control spending caused furloughs and cuts between 2008-2014. Better times emerged from 2015-16. Now Harry is back and here we go again. Hawaii County should CUT HARRY!

  2. Rusty Da Clown February 11, 2018 8:38 am

    Sneaky Harry – say you’re all about helping the poor, poor, poor, then turn around and tax, tax, tax. Want to see a growing economy ground to a halt? Elect Harry akin.

  3. Steve Dearing February 11, 2018 11:44 am

    Taxpayers asking demo rats like Kim and the Council Bandits not to rape, rob and destroy is futile for the jackasses have proven to be incorrigible.

  4. MDK 88 February 11, 2018 7:51 pm

    Cut services and furlough employees. Time for folks to take care of their own…like how it was before. Take care of the roads and infrastructure with everything else being secondary. Can’t have it both ways either being government or the taxpayers.

  5. PUNATIC February 11, 2018 8:06 pm

    cut the over paid police 50%

  6. volcanovillage February 12, 2018 5:27 pm

    Watch as our visitors / tourists discover new and more economical places to visit when investing in their Vacations.
    Taxes …. is one thing.
    The county can not keep coming back to our Tourists for their bad spending habits.
    Tourists have many Many other places on this Earth to visit.
    The County and State will not learn until they kill this golden goose that is so heavily depended upon for OUR economy.
    Picture that County and State…..yu are driving OUR business and tourists to other economies.
    You are bloated and nepotism is known to exist, and you know NO Humility nor do you possess the abilities to administer a budget without constantly Wanting MORE.
    It will be a LOT EASIER to Lose OUR TOURISM than it wll be to Get It Back when it goes somewhere else…..Aloha.
    Why don’t you go for a nice round full 1% increase…..couldn’t hurt.

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