by Jamie Story
Congratulations on your election as leader of our great state. You are taking office at a turning point in Hawaii, one in which we can allow families and businesses to flourish by reducing the burdens placed on them by government, or can continue to leave government in the hands of unions and special interests, at the expense of our keiki. I prefer the first choice.
Hawaii has long had one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, and tax hikes passed by the state Legislature every year only worsen our position. We ask you, as governor, to propose a budget that reduces state government to a sustainable size, free of pork spending and ineffective programs. We have identified billions of dollars of waste in our annual Hawaii Pork Report, which is a good place to start. Furthermore, our launch last week of HawaiiSunshine.org has already allowed thousands of Hawaii citizens to investigate how their tax dollars are being spent, and they are using it to identify wasteful spending as we speak. We hope you’ll make use of these valuable tools.
Cutting wasteful spending is not enough, however. Our state Legislature remains the only one in the country not to use fiscal notes in determining the costs of proposed legislation. This is like going shopping without looking at the price tags — with someone else’s money. We cannot establish firm financial footing on top of such a haphazard foundation. Please employ your leadership to ensure our Legislature adopts a more responsible and transparent budgeting process.
Finally, as chief executive, you cannot afford to ignore the most dangerous financial threat looming over our state. The government employee pension crisis in Hawaii has reached epic proportions, with $9 billion in unfunded liabilities and another $10 billion in unfunded future health care costs (as reported by the Star-Advertiser). Per capita, we rank second-highest in the nation in both categories, with each of our keiki already liable for $7,700 in unfunded pension costs alone. We ask you to make solving this crisis a top priority in 2011.
Best wishes in your new role, and please don’t hesitate to enlist our assistance on any of the tough policy decisions you will undoubtedly face. Meanwhile, the Grassroot Institute will continue our fight for smaller, more accountable government in Hawaii.
Jamie Story was the president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.