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Waikiki casino could help relieve pressure to tax other sources

By Richard Borreca

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:42 a.m. HST, Mar 29, 2011



Over the weekend, Gov. Neil Abercrombie flung out a YouTube video exhorting us to ask the Legislature to pass a budget with lots more money in it.

"We must pass a plan with sufficient new tax revenues," Abercrombie said on the video.

"We cannot be bogged down by petty political stories of the day," he said.

His entire administration followed up yesterday with testimony before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the budget bill. You can find their pleas for more money on the Internet (http://goo.gl/EGu8y).

It is troubling that Abercrombie is still not saying which "new tax revenues" he wants to fuel his "New Day for Hawaii."

The state is about $230 million short of funds to run the last four months of this fiscal year. For the next two fiscal years, the state is $1.7 billion short.

Kalbert Young, the new state budget director, says Abercrombie has started to institute a 10 percent reduction in spending, and is mulling over again delaying state income tax returns to save money. Also, it appears Abercrombie will have to take the Hurricane Relief Fund and the Rainy Day Fund now, rather than in the next biennium.

It is not known if those are the sort of stories that Abercrombie fears will bog us down. If Abercrombie were answering questions instead of issuing videos about his budget, he would have to be asked if he is really going ahead with his $18 million handout to the public unions to restore their medical insurance benefits to a 60-40 split.

In the larger picture, it is too bad that no one seems ready to seriously look at a ready source of new jobs and new tax revenues: a Waikiki casino.

No, a casino would not solve the state's current $1.7 billion, two-year state budget deficit. And, no, a casino will not solve Hawaii's tourism problem.

But it would help more than taxing nonprofits; it would help more than taxing offshore Internet sales; it would help more than raising the tax on gasoline; and it certainly would help more than raising the general excise tax.

According to news stories that ran on Sunday, Waikiki appears to be more a weekend gang fight location than a bustling tourist mecca. It might help to bring some new economic opportunity to the area with a new destination, new jobs and new taxpayers.

"This is the only business I know of that begs to pay the government to do business, and then asks to pay more in taxes, and be as regulated as possible, while employing thousands of well-paid, unionized workers," said lobbyist John Radcliffe, in perhaps an over-enthusiastic description of the gaming industry.

Still, all the plans today are going to take money from consumers, voters and residents to pay for state programs. Abercrombie's weekend missive says we will "have to do more with less" adding that if we want all the good things for Hawaii "we are going to have to pay for them."

The governor stops short of saying how and who would be doing this paying. It would be a great time to just mention plans for a casino; at least that would be a step away from the tax increase debate.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.






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