The tax review commission took public testimony Tuesday on two consultant reports that examined the state’s current tax policy and structure.
Retired state highways worker Douglas Meller just turned 65, and got on Medicare 10 days ago.
He came down to the Capitol to be a voice, one out of many, chiming in against a long list of possible ways to raise money for the state's coffers.
The Tax Foundation of Hawaii said the last two tax review commissions flagged the need to think about taxing pensions as workers got older.
Meller feels doing so now, would amount to reneging on an implied contract with its public workers.
"We were told if we paid taxes on our income and then took that taxed income and contributed, we would in turn receive non-taxed larger pensions,” Mellen said.
Nonprofits appealed to the commission, not to do away with their tax exemptions.
"Real people are helped every day by the thousands of nonprofits across the state that are dedicated for the public good. Services that are here today will not be here tomorrow if GET exemptions are lost," said Lisa Maruyama, of the Hawaii Alliance of Non-profits.
The Hotel Association spoke against raising the transit accommodation tax, saying Hawaii can’t afford to out price its hotel rooms, if it expects to be competitive with other destinations.
"The point is our business is cyclical. The question is not if but when it will happen with a downturn, and if the taxes are higher than what it is now, what then?" said Max Sword of the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts.
The Hawaii Tax Foundation found fault with the two consultant studies saying the reports did a disservice to Hawaii.
"This has been a waste of money. They did not do their research. There were so many errors they should have caught before they got to this stage.
I don’t know what they spent their time, but I certainly would not hire them again," said Lowell Kalapa.
But the commission said it can only make recommendations on how to overhaul the tax structure based on current spending. It can’t control how the state spends taxpayers’ money.
“The economy is not going to be Shangri-La or Dante’s Inferno. The legislature can do one of two things, maintain the current level of service or adjust it." said commission chairman Randy Iwase.
Besides public testimony, the commission will consider two other studies by the state tax department that look at improving tax collection and enforcement, and what to do about taxing families living below the poverty level. A final report is due to state lawmakers by the end of the year.