By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – One after another local restaurant owners, liquor distributors, and employees of companies that sell or distribute alcohol testified at a House Finance Committee hearing against increasing the state tax on alcohol.
"Every time something happens to us meaning that if prices go up, we have to make a move to increase our prices. Now, we may lose our customers. We may lose our guests. If we lose our guests, we may lose some of the hard working people that work for us," said Roy Yamaguchi, renowned chef from Roy's restaurants.
Yamaguchi is so opposed to raising the liquor tax he has testified against the idea twice in the past couple of weeks. It is the only topic that has ever compelled him to testify at the state capitol.
An overflow crowd of people worried about losing their jobs or about having to fire employees filled the hearing room.
"Adding these kind of additional taxes - they are not stimulating additional economic activity for us or for anybody else, they are dampening it," said Thomas Jones, who runs Gyotaku Restaurants.
Several proposed alcohol tax rate increases have been discussed during the current legislative session. The bill under discussion Monday, Senate Bill 741 Senate Draft 1, would impose a 20% hike on beer, wine, and spirits. The added expense would be passed on to customers.
"If we want to stimulate activity in our restaurant, we give people a discount. We don't charge them more," Jones added.
Lawmakers are seeking ways to increase state revenue. A recent forecast by the state Council on Revenues projects the state's budget deficit will be about $200 million this fiscal year and about $1.3 billion over the two-year budget cycle.