Lowell Kalapa, well-known government watchdog who headed the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, died over the weekend, his office confirmed today.

A frequent guest on Hawaii Reporter television, and a regular columnist in Hawaii Reporter and a number of other local media, Kalapa was known for fearlessly exposing waste, fraud and corruption in government.

Whether Kalapa was taking on the public unions, saying the taxpayers couldn’t afford their pay increases and benefits packages; challenging the tech and film industry sectors saying they shouldn’t get tax credits; or fighting more tax hikes proposed by state and county government, Kalapa was a stalwart advocate for Hawaii’s taxpayers.

He was a well-known presence at the Hawaii State Capitol and city hall, and government leaders frequently called on him for advice, facts and opinion.

Panos Prevedouros, PhD, professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii, who also ran for Honolulu mayor, said Kalapa was a treasured resource.

“I wish I had spend more time with Lowell talking taxes and Hawaii stats. He was a helpful and reliable advisor during both my runs for mayor. One of the greatest public policy resources in Hawaii is gone forever,” Prevedouros said.

Cliff Slater, a transportation expert and local businessman, said: “Lowell was a thoroughly principled individual who made it clear that the Tax Foundation’s role was to explain the effects of various tax measures to legislators and the public. Period. He did not equivocate. He did not waver under pressure to change, or even shade, his views. Right or Left did not matter to him; it they were mistaken in their views, they were told  so. He might well be that extremely rare person, the irreplaceable one.”

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, who formerly headed the Tax Foundation of Hawaii before Kalapa took it over, said the untimely death of Kalapa is a blow to taxpayers and the public alike.

“Lowell was Hawaii’s long time, unmatched, public finance watchdog. Lowell educated countless thousands of local residents on the importance of fiscal transparency, from radio and television appearances, weekly columns and his famous “Arnie Aloha Family” Tax Booklets,” Slom said.

Slom said Kalapa, who was active in several community organizations and projects, had a passion for affordable housing and was a no-nonsense professional with integrity.

“His non-combative style and factual testimony at the Capitol or City Hall was always valuable,” Slom said. “I have had the privilege of knowing and learning from Lowell since he succeeded me at the Tax Foundation many decades ago. He will be missed.”

Hawaii State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said Kalapa was a longtime advocate and watchdog for Hawaii’s taxpayers.

“Deeply respected by members of the Hawaii State Legislature, his fiscal knowledge and expertise served as a critical voice at the Capitol, helping to shape good policy and support better government,” Kim said. “On behalf of the Hawaii State Senate and the People of Hawaii, I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie also said he was saddened by the sudden passing of Kalapa.

“Lowell worked tirelessly to advocate for Hawaii taxpayers.  He had a no-nonsense, unique and independent perspective on government, budgets, and tax policy,” Abercrombie said. “Lowell was a nationally recognized expert on taxation, and had enormous credibility in the halls of the Hawaii State Legislature. He is irreplaceable and will be missed.”




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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards. Hawaii Reporter has a weekly television news show, News Behind the News, which airs on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.