Friday
Apr032009

Taxing Driving

Djou on Politics

Some people truly enjoy driving. For others, it is simply a necessary chore. For everyone on Oahu, however, it is something that has been expensive and is about to get even more expensive.

For this upcoming year's budget, the mayor is proposing a whopping 33 percent tax hike in the city vehicle tax from $30 to $40 per 1,000 pounds. This comes on top of a 50 percent tax increase Mayor Hannemann pushed through in 2006 and another tax increase the previous administration added on in 2003.

All told, the average Oahu resident has seen their vehicle tax more than double in the past few years. For a typical vehicle, such as a 2003 Honda Accord for which the city vehicle tax was only $39.58 per year in 2003, next year, that exact same vehicle will see a tax increase to $126.64 per year. Although car values typically depreciate over time, it seems your city government is making sure your taxes move in the exact opposite direction of your automobile's value.

In other parts of this country, even a slight increase in the vehicle tax triggered tremendous taxpayer concern. When the state of California increased the vehicle tax by just 15 percent - not 125 percent as we've done here in Honolulu - California voters impeached the governor and installed an Austrian bodybuilder/actor as their chief executive. In Virginia, a vehicle tax increase completely altered the governor's race a few years ago.

Oahu families shouldn't feel they have to just sit and take hit after hit from their local government. The city's spending has simply exploded over the past four years, from a $1.5 billion budget in 2005 to an amazing $3.5 billion proposed budget for this coming year. This massive increase in government spending has been fed by a never-ending series of tax increases, of which the vehicle tax is just one part.

Just as most families today are tightening their belts in a tough economic environment, so should your city government. Oahu residents cannot afford government spending to continue to go up at a rate of 4 or 5 times that of inflation, year after year, with debt being piled up as high as the eye can see.

I have long championed the need to put a lid on spending at City Hall. We need a spending ceiling, forcing Honolulu Hale to never increase government spending beyond inflation plus population growth. Both the federal government and state government have some form of spending control. The city needs similar restraint. If we don't exact some limits on our runaway spending, we will simply continue to see our taxes, like the vehicle tax, go up and up and up, with no end in sight.

Councilmember Djou represents the 4th Council District (Waikiki to Hawaii Kai). Outside of the City Council, Charles serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, and is an adjunct professor of law at Hawaii Pacific University.