Randy Gonce is a public servant, veteran, and student. He grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet, and even recently has teetered on the edge of financial stability. He supports greater tax fairness in Hawaii that will reduce the state tax burdens of the many families in his community that are fighting to eke out a living.
Randy was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs to keep food on the table for his sister and him. When even that wasn’t enough, Randy got a job when he was 14 years old to help his family pay the bills. For them, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was a godsend. It helped his family keep the lights on and a roof over their heads when times were at their toughest.
Randy joined the Air Force when he was 17, and he served for six years with multiple deployments overseas. After receiving an honorable discharge, he worked as a fitness/nutritional coach and as an installer of ventilation and air conditioning systems. He is now attending Hawaii Pacific University for his graduate degree in sustainable development and works at the Hawaii State Legislature as an aide and researcher.
The struggles that Randy’s family experienced while he was growing up seem to echo all around him today. “I see the same struggles my family faced everywhere I look in Hawaii today. So many people are fighting to stay afloat, including myself”
He is attending school and working at the legislature because he wants to build a brighter future for himself and his community. But making these investments comes at a cost. Randy feels like he is barely keeping his head above water. Year after year he has seen his rent go up, and he and his roommates have been forced to move multiple times. Each move has disrupted the stability they are each trying to build, and has lengthened their commutes. Randy’s income is just enough to cover his living expenses, and he has little to no cushion in the event of an emergency or unexpected event.
One such event happened in April 2016. While walking in downtown Honolulu, Randy witnessed a SUV get into an accident and flip over. With one of the occupants screaming, “My babies are in the car!” Randy dropped his school bag and ran to their aid. After helping the family, he went back to retrieve his bag. It was gone, along with his wallet, phone, car keys, and the laptop he needed for school. Shortly thereafter, Randy found his bank accounts emptied. The only way he was able to weather the loss was because his friends started an online crowdfunding page for him. The local news caught wind of the story and ran it on the evening news which helped them raise enough money to support Randy until the investigation was completed many months later and his bank returned some of the funds that were stolen. Without that help Randy wouldn’t have been able to pay his rent.
While the circumstances of Randy’s financial calamity are unusual, the theme is not. All across Hawaii, families are a paycheck away from financial collapse. “There are a lot of reasons why Hawaii families are just a step away from financial disaster. Unfair and overly burdensome state taxes shouldn’t be one of them. A few relatively small changes to our tax system can help a lot of families away from the brink and onto the path of stability.”