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Oppose an Increase of the General Excise Tax (Bill 165)

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We oppose a proposal to add a half-percent surcharge on the general excise tax.

The GET is a regressive state tax that hits hardest those who are least able to afford it. It is assessed on food, medicine, clothing, utilities -- in short, many things unrelated to "public transportation."

Although the tax surcharge is scheduled to end in 2027, it could be extended indefinitely by a vote of a future Legislature and Council. In addition, infrastructure improvements will result in additional maintenance costs for many years to come.

The costs are known; the benefits are not. There are no projects that are tied in to this tax. We cannot say how much of the collected tax will go toward improvements.

The 4 percent General Excise Tax is assessed in Hawai'i on virtually all transactions. Say a farmer wants to sell a tomato in the supermarket. The farmer buys the tools, the seeds, and the fertilizer, and pays the state a 4 percent tax. After growing the tomato, it is bought by a grocery store, who pays the state a 4 percent tax. Then when you buy the tomato you pay the state a 4 percent tax. Every transaction raises the cost of the product by 4 percent, which is ultimately paid by you. So that is why a half-percent increase in the GET is higher than it seems. The taxes from prior transactions are hidden in the cost of living.

We oppose this tax increase.



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