‘How we can restore economic prosperity’

Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli’i Akina was guest again on the radio program “Perry & The Posse,” this time on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, and this time talking with host Michael W. Perry about how we can restore economic prosperity in Hawaii — without raising taxes.

Hawaii lawmakers “actually don’t need to raise taxes to get extra revenue,” Akina told Perry during the 5 1/2-minute conversation. “All we need to do is take our foot off the backs of the necks of our business and our businesses would thrive,” thus generating the taxes needed to help balance the state’s budget.

Perry is Hawaii’s most-listened-to radio host on weekday mornings, heard on KSSK AM 590 and FM 93.2.

A complete transcript is below.

2-3-21 Keli’i Akina on “Perry & The Posse,” KSSK AM 590 and FM 92.3

Michael W. Perry: This is K radio. I guess I was a little tough on the governor because I didn’t hear anything in his “State of the State” about taxes. He basically just ignored the whole subject. 

Keli’i Akina — Dr. Akina over at Grassroot Institute — was a little easier on the governor because, he says, it’s the Legislature that’s going to really mess us over here. The Legislature’s in session, and the top of their agenda is approving a spending plan for the state. … Dr. Akina, welcome to the program first of all.

Keli’i Akina: Mike, always glad to be with you and your listeners. Good morning.

Perry: I know most people, you start talking about budgeting for the state of Hawaii and their eyes glaze over. No, don’t let that happen here because we have a big problem in the state of Hawaii. Go ahead and tell them.

Akina: Well, the pandemic lockdowns have resulted in a financial crash, especially with the demise of our tourist industry, and it’s caused a massive budget shortfall for the government. We’re out of money. We’re short by $1.4 billion for each of the next four fiscal years, and our lawmakers are looking to all kinds of desperate measures to “balance the budget.”

Perry: When they say balance the budget, they think, of course, “Well, let’s see the government’s most important thing. We’ve got to get the money because we’re the government.” They have to make sure that enough money is coming in to cover what they spend. We have a feeling we know what that means. What’s going to happen here? How is this going to happen?

Akina: Well, if you’re running a household, the last thing you want to do is dig yourself into deeper debt. But the main thing our lawmakers are doing to try to cover the loss of money is to borrow more money,l and for the first time in Hawaii’s history, our state is actually borrowing money just to balance the budget and pay payroll for our public workers. That’s not a good sign at all. It’s not really balancing our finances because we’re going to end up having to pay for that money anyway, in the long run, and it puts taxpayers on the hook for a very, very long time.

Perry: What’s the first thing you do, if you’re a prudent homeowner or whatever? You’re at home and, OK, this money is not coming in; we’ve got to cut back, right? We’ve got to cut back our spending. Why is it that we can’t cut back our spending? They keep saying there’s nothing to cut.

Akina: Well, it’s because lawmakers have the belief that the way that you solve your financial problems in the state is by taxing people more, and we’ve got all kinds of tax bills down at the Legislature right now. 

For example, Mike, there’s a bill to increase the income tax, to make us the highest rate in the nation. We’re No. 2, but that’s not good enough. There’s a bill to increase the general excise tax, which really hurts people with lower incomes. In addition, we found new ways to tax tourists. We also have a hike in the gas tax, and I could go on all morning with a long list that Grassroot has put together of the tax increases that are being proposed at the Legislature.

Perry: Grassroot Institute does this. It’s what they do, and Dr. Akina is the president and CEO of that place.

Isn’t that amazing? You can’t find anything to cut, so let’s drain some more money from people who don’t have any money so that we can keep the government going. Instead of cutting … We could cut … We have a new Aloha stadium. We have rail. We have tourism promotions. We have pay raises. 

I saw the David Swan cartoon. As a matter of fact, Jimmy just put up not only your white paper on this, but he put up the David Swan cartoon that Grassroot has right now (chuckles) about all the things that our Legislature says they can’t find anything to cut, and yet they’re surrounded by them. What the heck?

Akina: Well, you know Mike, the lawmakers actually don’t need to raise taxes to get extra revenue. All we need to do is take our foot off the backs of the necks of businesses and let businesses thrive. That would bring the economy back. By allowing a bit more tourism to come into Hawaii, we’d raised far more money through taxes that come in from tourists and those businesses that get back to work than we would by raising our tax rates overall.

Perry: And not have to borrow against our kids’ and grandkids’ futures, absolutely. Yeah, borrowing money is like putting … You got bills to pay at home? Yeah, put them on the credit card, that will take care of it. No, it just postpones the inevitable and it ends up worse. 

OK, you have some good solutions. Anything we should do? Just direct people to where you would like to see them check out your ideas.

Akina: Fantastic. Everyone is invited to check out the Grassroot Institute website and get a free report called “Road map to prosperity,” which outlines a solution as to how we can get out of the Coronavirus economic crisis. That’s grassrootinstitute.org, grassrootinstitute.org.

Perry: These guys, by the way, are about the only think tank that makes any sense in the state of Hawaii, or you’re about the only think tank for one thing. I don’t see a lot of thinking going on out there. 

Dr. Akina, thank you so much. I appreciate it, and Jimmy just put up the David Swann cartoon, because I think you scored by getting one of the best cartoonists Hawaii has ever seen for Grassroot Institute. Grassroot institute.org is the website. Grassrootinstitute.org. Thanks, Dr. Akina.

Akina: Much aloha to you and everyone.


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