Green’s State of the State address deserves kudos but with caveats

Photo by Charley Myers

This news release was issued Jan. 23, 2023, by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Most compelling was the governor’s proposal to increase tax deductions and support open records, but all the talk about spending was worrisome

HONOLULU, Jan. 23, 2023 >> Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President and CEO Keli‘i Akina issued a statement following Hawaii Gov. Josh Green’s first State of the State Address. The comments below may be attributed to him; Akina is also available for interviews:

Overall thoughts:

We can’t support everything Gov. Green proposed, but there is a lot to like. This is encouraging.

On taxes:

The Grassroot Institute is very happy to see the governor propose an increase in the standard deduction for personal income taxes. In general, the plan would implement the largest tax reduction in state history, which would help struggling taxpayers afford Hawaii’s high cost of living.”

Indexing income tax brackets to inflation also makes sense; we don’t want people getting pushed into higher tax brackets due to inflation while their buying power is actually going down.

However, I would have liked to see the governor’s proposals go even further. For example, we would like to see the state general excise tax eliminated for groceries, so Hawaii residents can get immediate relief at the point of sale. That’s an opportunity to go bolder.

The governor also should pledge to support tax relief for medical services, as a way to increase access to healthcare and make Hawaii a more attractive place for doctors to practice.

Beyond that, the governor didn’t say anything about imposing new taxes, but we want to make sure that targeted tax cuts are not offset by raising taxes elsewhere.

Another concern is that the governor proposed new spending that might be difficult to sustain in non-surplus budget years.

On housing:

The governor expressed the right sentiment on housing, but more government programs are not the answer to the problems we are facing, and I’m not thrilled with the use of an emergency order to address the issue.

I understand why the governor feels that things have gotten so out of control that an emergency order is needed, but Hawaii’s housing problem is the result of long-standing systemic issues.

We need long-term solutions that deal with the root causes, which primarily are too many land-use, zoning and other homebuilding-related regulations, as well as the glacial permitting systems of both the state and the counties.

In other words, the Legislature should be involved so any reforms to increase Hawaii’s supply of housing are permanent and broader in scope.

On government transparency: 

I’m thrilled to hear the governor pledge to sign any legislation that meaningfully increases government transparency and accountability.

I’m especially happy that the governor endorsed the recommendations of a letter sent to him earlier this month intended to ensure greater access to public records, such as making public documents available at low cost. The letter was drafted by the Civil Beat Law Center and signed by more than two dozen local community and media organizations, including the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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