Hawaii's public school teachers and their union are pushing hard for a constitutional amendment that would add taxes to higher-end investment properties and tourist accommodations.
They argue that hitting up tourists and offshore investors is a painless way to save our school system – which suffers from underfunding. The HSTA says facilities are deteriorating and teachers are fleeing the profession, creating a genuine crisis.
The tax increase idea seems to be gaining traction. Even the governor calls it intriguing.
It may seem like a quick, creative solution, but there are a lot of serious issues here that make this a questionable idea. The biggest: property taxes are controlled by the counties and are really their only way to raise serious money for their own needs. Imposing a state property tax would prevent county leaders from being able to raise those taxes to address their challenges like public safety, parks and roads.
Unlike most other places, Hawaii made the decision long ago that the state would pay for the schools with state tax collections.
If our lawmakers and Governor believe the schools are underfunded, they should accept responsibility to pay for it without harming the counties.