The Conversation: It’s GO TIME!
Welcome back to The Conversation! Before we launch into the meat of this week's column, it's important that we first revisit our structure and framework, the pillars if you will, that are supporting and driving the focus of The Conversation.
Once we as a community recognize a Challenge, that begins a Conversation. During the Conversation we gain Clarity over what the issues are, who the players are, and what can be done moving forward. That leads to Committed Collaboration from those in the community willing to stand their ground, speak in courage and firmly act in love towards those who need to change. By continuing to do what is right and refusing to back down, this leads to our ultimate goal of Change.
The reason for this column is not only for getting refunds for people being overcharged by the OMV for all these years. That was simply the first issue to be brought up and discussed in the context of this column. I knew that much bigger issues were among us, and would need to be addressed. And here we are, right in the middle of some major flak! What we do here is critical to the future success of this community.
To give you an update on that briefly, we are still in the dark as to what the government plans to do as their final word. Refunds were supposed to be issued, and officials at DPS had assured us they would be. Then the AG said they weren't going to issue refunds; then senators the following day said refunds were owed, and would be. Just a few weeks later the Senators in a session then stated that the new bill did not have provisions for refunds, therefore refunds would not be issued.
Does anyone else feel like they're being played with like a yo-yo?
Trust me, that issue is far from being over. For the record, a new bill does not need to have provisions made for a refund to be issued when current laws and common sense dictate that when people have been overcharged for a service by any business or governing body, especially those governed by laws as are the fees for the OMV, money is owed. To say otherwise is ridiculous and laughable. Truth is stranger than fiction!
However, the OMV issue is simply proof that we have problems in leadership, and that there is an obvious struggle for our local leaders to — first of all see what is right, and secondly to do what is right as it pertains to people's money and the government's oversight in that area.
So while that issue is continuing to be dealt with, we must move on to a much bigger issue pertaining to people's money: the revenue task force and the recommendations that have been written up in a proposed bill that is being looked at right now.
Therefore, this week’s Conversation is largely going to be “authored” by Mr. Tom Drabble, as he shares some actionable steps from his perspective, promised in last Friday’s column.
“ MY THOUGHTS ONLY”
Unfortunately over the years no serious thought has been given to most, if not all, revenue measures that our Administration has proposed and, in the most part, enacted.
The Business sector has been ineffective by not being allowed a reasonable hearing by those in power. In the main, revenue policy makers have grasped at what they see as easy pickings --for example, the 10% tax on LPG gas (LPG gas use should be encouraged as a much more cost-effective answer than electricity for heating and cooking, not discouraged by an unfair tax).
In addition, our policy makers get confused as to what should be a legitimate charge for services, and an exorbitant charge just to raise revenue. A good example of that is Business License fees.
So, how do we fund Government operations in the most beneficial way? Firstly, we need to start thinking positively rather than negatively. We have all seen some quite ridiculous measures presented, many passed into law — but most simply being a total waste of everyone's time. A good example of that is the current proposed tax on "Sugary Drinks". This should not even be a topic for discussion.
The question is, how do we sort out the good from the bad? Well, how about starting out with some basic premises?
!. GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT BE IN BUSINESS:
Shipyard, Port (and shipping), ASTCA, ASPA, Territorial Bank, (previously) Hotel
2. Government has a right to charge a reasonable fee for legitimate services.
3. It is the duty of the private sector to assist and ensure that Government is properly funded.
4. Government has a duty to operate efficiently.
5. TAXATION: (Should not be confused with fees for services)
a.) Keep as much money in the hands of low-income workers as possible
b.) Assist business development by keeping up-front costs and fees as low as possible.
c.) Apply taxes at the END of a business cycle. ie on income or on sales.
d.)Taxes should not be applied in a discriminatory fashion (Hotel tax, commercial vehicles, tax on second-hand vehicles, tax on construction equipment.)
At this point, what should happen (but is not going to) is to rescind unfair and/or undesirable taxes and fees such as:
a.) Minimum alternative wage tax (2%--or 6%?)
b.) Duty on motor vehicles (10% and 25% for commercial) --There should be no discrimination between private and commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles will pay more anyway based on annual license fee structure but should not be on basic cost. (These items will attract the SALES TAX anyway)
c.) Hotel tax
d.) Duty on LPG gas
e.) 5% import duty.
— No doubt others —
Given that items 1 through 4 are not going to happen any time soon, how should the Chamber react to the current revenue-raising legislation?
a.) Continue to stress the need for Government to control their costs, particularly payroll
b.) Insist that adequate collection procedures for current tax laws are in place and followed
1. Proposal to bring personal income tax laws to mirror current USA rates: The Chamber should OPPOSE this measure. The reason? This will only benefit HIGH WAGE EARNERS and will force much higher taxes and fees in other areas (such as sales tax), which primarily are borne by low-income workers. A perfect example of the rich getting richer.
2. 7% Sales tax proposal.... SUPPORT the concept of a Sales Tax (but not necessarily the rate) HOWEVER...apply on ALL goods and services and then MAKE EXCEPTIONS to influence behavior. eg. (ideas only) No sales tax on building job-creating investments, No tax on LOCAL supply of fish, agricultural products etc. No sales tax on rents, no sales tax on medical services etc. (This subject needs a lot of research.)
3. Phase out the 5% duty over 5 years...OPPOSE (see above) however I would suggest a 1% import fee (in place of the 5%) to cover administration and audit of import/sales tax.
4. Charge 25% on construction equipment — OPPOSE another discriminatory tax simply because it is a big ticket item. Again, this equipment will attract the sales tax anyway.
5. Tax on "Sugary Drinks --OPPOSE.. Totally subjective...where does this thought process stop? Cookies? snacks? How about fruit juices? --very sugary..
6. 25% tax on second hand vehicles OPPOSE.. same argument as above...how about second hand clothes? Also, the Chamber should not support protectionist measures.
7. Proposed change in method for taxing beer: SUPPORT (no-brainer). Eliminates the opportunity for importers to present a false invoice to reduce tax liability.
6. Port fees: OPPOSE. This should be an enterprise fund and not used as a tax substitute. The Port is one of our biggest resources and holds tremendous possibilities for economic development. It will be destroyed in exactly the same way that ASTCA was by channeling revenues into the General fund rather than Harbor redevelopment. “
Thank you Tom for your thoughts here. Perspective is needed, and there needs to be restraint exercised before these laws are enacted. Let’s consider this as a community and please share any thoughts you have!
Perhaps there needs to be at the very least an committee formed to address this at a community level, if the will of the people is going to continue to be ignored by those in roles of leadership as Senators and Fono Representatives.
Remember, they work for us, NOT the other way around, and they only can use money that is sourced from local people and the Federal government. Either way, it is the will of the people that must be both heard and served, not the will of the government.