The Big Squeeze: An analysis of tax and fee increases island residents are expected to pay

Oh, the bills!

In a fit of pique, you crumble up the latest one and toss it into the trash. That’s going to cost you. In fact, if you rely on trash service rather than hauling your own garbage to a transfer station, it probably costs you 27.1 percent more this year than last year. That’s how much haulers were hit for, and they’re probably going to pass that increase along.


You reach for a glass of water while you calm down. But that will cost you, too. Water bills are up an average of 8 percent for residential users. Not to mention the sewer charges, which the county plans to raise 44 percent next year.

You shut off your lights and head out the door. Good thing you remembered to flip that switch — electricity is up about 7.4 percent from last year and Hawaii Electric Light Co. is asking for a 3.4 percent hike.

You climb into your car and turn the ignition. Don’t rev that engine; gasoline is up 19.2 percent over last year. And gas taxes are up 26.7 percent, following an astonishing 70.5 percent the year before. Not to mention the extra $5.81 for your safety sticker.

Going to the store? Better stock up. General excise taxes are going up 6.3 percent Jan. 1, an increase that will affect everything you buy at retail as well as other goods and services. Speaking of retail, prices are probably going up too, as Matson, the container carrier that brings us most of our goods, slapped a fuel surcharge on its cargo that’s 41.3 percent higher than last year.

Now you might think a stay-cation is in order. Work off some of that stress, stay at a comfy Big Island resort, lounge in the pool, have a drink at the tiki bar. Guess what? That costs more this year, too, thanks to the state Legislature last year adding 1 percent to the transient accommodations tax on hotels and short-term lodging.

If you opt for a short-term vacation rental home instead, that may not cost quite as much more next year, but it’s likely to go up in 2020, as the county administration figures out a way to create a new property tax class to get its share of the revenue being thrown around by this burgeoning industry.

Maybe you’d better just stay home. And, you guessed it. That’s more expensive, too. Property values are up 4 percent, and if you rent, your monthly payments are probably up, thanks to a 10.4 percent property tax increase for rental homes, and 7.8 percent for apartments imposed last year.

No problem, some might say. Prices go up, the cost of goods goes up, taxes go up.

But so do salaries.

Not so fast. While double-digit raises as high as 37 percent for the county’s top administrators gained headlines, rank-and-file union workers are seeing raises, step increases and bonuses working out to about 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

And the rest of us? Our annual household income grew about 3.4 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the latest estimates available from the U.S. Census Bureau, released earlier this month.


Feeling a little squeezed lately? You may have good reason.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at

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