By; T. Jeffersonian
On Saturday March 6, 2021, the United States Senate voted along party lines to approve the $1.9 trillion Coronavirus Relief Stimulus Package. The final vote was 50-49 with all Republicans voting against and all Democrats voting in favor. Due to revisions to the package made by the Senate, the package will return to the U.S. House of Representatives where it will be voted on a second time. There is no doubt that the U.S. House will pass the measure and that President Joe Biden will sign it in the coming days.
What does passage of this package mean for Hawaii? After casting his vote in favor of
the package, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) exclaimed that billions of dollars are coming to Hawaii to help families and small businesses. He said that this new package will deliver immediate help to people who have become unemployed or cannot pay their rent. Still further, Senator Schatz said that the package provides funding for schools and healthcare and gives our state more resources to provide more vaccinations. The Coronavirus relief package also includes funding for state and local governments to cover budget shortfalls, and will provide more resources for Native Hawaiian health, housing, and education programs.
The breakdown of the funding for Hawaii is as follows:
• State and local budgets: $2.2 billion
• Unemployment Assistance: $575 million
• Rent and mortgage relief: $226.5 million
• Health care systems: $150 million
• Hawaii schools: $634 million
This relief package also includes at least $1.7 billion in direct cash payments which will be given to Hawaii residents. Most Hawaii households will receive $1,400 per adult and additional payments for children. Federal funding will also cover transportation costs and infrastructure, vaccine distribution, utility bill assistance, and welfare programs.
Near term, this stimulus is very helpful to Hawaii. Hawaii was already facing down the gun barrel of $1.4 billion revenue short fall. This short fall was expected to grow by another $1 billion in 2021. Despite the passage of this stimulus, Hawaii is still short. The stimulus will allow us to pay the interest on $750 million payroll loan that the state government took out in 2020. Paying the interest to that loan saves Hawaii’s businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes over the next five years. All this private money can be spent on bills or to expand small businesses.
There will be no government furloughs. Schools and after schools’ programs will
remain open. Vaccines will be distributed faster and potentially hundreds of infrastructure jobs will be created. The $15 per hour minimum wage increase was not included in the stimulus package because it was removed via a bipartisan vote earlier in the week.
Long term, Hawaii is still in grave financial trouble. For Hawaii, this stimulus package is a band-aid on an arterial bleed. There will not likely be another federal stimulus of this magnitude to save Hawaii and this one only bought us more time before this state fiscally dies. There is only so much more that our state government can tax our businesses and our people because we simply do not have that much more to give.
The expense of living here is already driving the people born here away. The people taking our places are those wealthy enough to live here for a
while until they too are taxed to the point of exodus. The risks are high due to the pandemics continued contagiousness, but the state must reopen to earn revenue that buys us more time. The state’s attorneys must explore and advise our
elected leaders on the constitutionality of requiring all visitors and businesses in the state to be vaccinated. If such a mandate is permitted, then it must be done to lessen the risks of reopening and operating at full, existing economic power.
Hawaii is already one of the most coronavirus restricted states in the Union, such a mandate would not be unprecedented nor unexpected. Businesses and jobs must return so the state can earn more revenue. The state must immediately approve Hawaiian Homeland Gaming with Gross Gaming Revenue sharing agreements. A state lottery open to all residents and visitors must be approved. The state must
privatize all fiscal liabilities such as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) and get them operational.
We must become business friendly across this state and diversify our
economy so that we are never again singularly dependent on federal aid and tourism alone. If we remain such, we will forever be dependent on taxing the rich and breaking the backs of our fellow American taxpayers on the mainland. We will cause their fiscal deaths in addition to our own.
More ominously, this stimulus package will push the federal trade deficit to nearly $5 trillion since the coronavirus pandemic began. The national debt absent the latest deficit already stands at $27 trillion. In order to get the United States out of this debt, each taxpayer now owes the United States government $900,000. Comparatively, the median home price on Oahu currently stands at $927,000. When the latest deficit is added to our national debt, our debt will be $32 trillion. When that occurs, we will have a debt that is 160 percent our Gross Domestic Product
(GDP). At this rate, the United States is going to run out of funding for Social Security and Medicare inside the next 20 years.
We the people are on a course to hand our children a debt that we cannot repay and that they cannot repay because we are going to make it bigger. We are building back better by building their debt bigger! The United States is fiscally dying a gradual death. Hawaii, since well before the coronavirus, has been a chronic fiscal ailment of our country. The latest stimulus is but a pain medication to what is a terminal but curable illness. This stimulus and others like it are not the cure.
Hawaii must vaccinate, reopen, deregulate, privatize, and expand across all business and government sectors urgently so that we are the cure.