The Greeks said: "Nothing comes from nothing."
Hawaii politicians are learning that "nothing goes away, no matter how far down the road you kick it."
While the ancient Greeks were working on the principle that matter cannot be created or destroyed, Hawaii state budget planning is simpler. If you borrow from the budget, it doesn’t disappear; someday you have to pay it back.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie should remember that when they start painting their Technicolor futures for Hawaii.
Aiona is promising an administration with no tax increases; Hannemann thinks he will have time to run a full audit of state finances; and Abercrombie is promising a wondrous new school system, with no apparent tax increases.
There are flaws upon flaws in that thinking.
As Gov. Linda Lingle has seen for the last eight years, the state’s tax policy is set by the Legislature, not the governor. If you don’t think Hawaii should raise taxes, extract a blood oath from the person standing at your door asking for your vote, because it is the Legislature, not the governor, that raises or lowers taxes.
Hannemann says he’s not going to do anything until he does a sweeping audit of how the state spends its money. Good idea, but meanwhile if he’s governor, state law requires his first budget to go to the Legislature 20 days before the opening of the Legislature, giving him about a month to staff a cabinet, do that audit, discover there’s no money and figure out what to do.
Abercrombie’s education plan sounds good, but as governor he will also find no one willing to sing Kumbaya with an empty checkbook.
HERE’S THE reason the state has a bigger problem than the pols want to admit.
When the state delayed paying you your state income tax return until this month, the state borrowed $200 million this year from you.
Maybe if Google, Apple and Microsoft all move their corporate headquarters to Kapolei, we will have enough new money to generate another $200 million in tax revenue. But more likely we will just carry the debt forward.
So next year your tax return will again be delayed. It is essential an involuntary, no-interest loan from the taxpayers.
At the same time, watch for tax collection estimates to also go down. Remember an estimated 6,000 unemployed Hawaii workers lost their jobless benefits in June and another 2,150 will lose their financial help unless Congress extends the unemployment benefits program. All totaled, about 15,000 have not worked in the last 26 weeks. No need to ask why there are so many vacant storefronts in Honolulu.
The question to ask Aiona, Hannemann and Abercrombie is just how delusional are you to want to be governor next year.
No matter who wins the governorship, that first budget will be time to sober up.