Your Views for March 9


Food too expensive

I’m a full-time student at Hawaii Community College (HawCC) in diesel mechanics, and I travel back and forth daily from Pahala. I also work part time in a local restaurant.

I spend a lot of time on the road, and the gas prices are rising. I am on a limited budget. I am concerned about the cost of food at the campus, especially the prices at the University Campus Center. The cafeteria prices are ridiculous!

Many students do not know how to cook or do not pack lunches and depend on the campus food. I would like to suggest that the University of Hawaii at Hilo lower their food prices and make some kind of “dollar menu.” If that is not an option, then bring in other food providers, such as fast food restaurants, on campus. Other campuses in the Hawaii state system make these accommodations.

Some students leave the campus and drive across town just to get a cheaper meal. Sure, it’s not really that healthy, but it is satisfying, especially for your wallet. If the campus can provide cheaper meals and/or other providers, that’s when I say, “I’M LOVIN’ IT.”

Dillin Ballo

Pahala

Brace for impact

The $8.4 billion Employees Retirement System shortfall has more dire implications than most realize. This ERS failure affects everyone in the state and counties — not only retirees. The almost inevitable consequences of the killer shortfall will include a continued raising of the minimum retirement age, more decreased pensions (especially for younger workers), more increases in employee contributions, and more taxpayer money (employer share) needed to support the ERS.

Ultimately, there may even have be an ERS “bailout” funded by Hawaii taxpayers. What all this translates to is a crippling of the Hawaii economy.

The worst case scenario is the ERS depleting principal to pay pensions (and having less and less to invest) and ultimately not being able to pay retirees their pensions. The mind-boggling fact is that all the state and county retirees — for the next 30 years — will be depending on a pension system that is not fully funded, even under favorable conditions!

Basically, one of the stated conditions needed to fix the ERS is to average a 7.75 percent rate of return for the next 30 years, which is unlikely considering that the average ERS return for the past 10 years has only been 2.8 percent. If they really think that they can — all of sudden — more than double their average rate of return, then why didn’t they years ago?

Additionally, the future investment environment as a whole is not very good, because the U.S. economy is handicapped and will be crippled by the massive federal debt problem that continues to grow.

The $8.4 billion shortfall is a whopping 70 percent of total assets, and the ERS is ranked near the bottom of all 50 states. Our elected officials made the problem worse by raiding the fund in the past. There were years of early warning that the ERS was in trouble.

Ultimately, it comes down to that nobody was minding the store. If you listen carefully, the captain of the U.S.S. Titanic-Hawaii is saying, “Brace for impact.”

Leighton Loo

Honolulu

 

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