Two former mayoral candidates speak out on RailUPDATED 7:14 PM HST Aug 23, 2013Video Transcript
about the city's projected budget shortfalls. Good evening, I'm Lara Yamada, in for Paula Akana. And I'm Yunji de Nies. For the past two days, we've been telling you about the city's projected budget deficits. For opponents of the city's $5- point-3 billion dollar rail project... it's red meat! KITV4's Andrew Pereira spoke to Ben Cayetano and Peter Carlisle today for their take on what this means for the city. It didn't take long for rail opponents to connect the city's projected budget deficits to the controversial project. Honolulu faces a shortfall of $26 million this fiscal year and as much as $156 million the next. BEN CAYETANO: "THE ONE THING WITH RAIL, ONCE IT'S IN, IT'S OVER. UNLIKE BUSES WHERE YOU CAN ELIMINATE A ROUTE OR TAKE OUT THE NUMBER OF BUSES, YOU CAN'T DO THAT WITH RAIL." The former candidate for Honolulu mayor maintains the city cannot afford to operate and maintain the elevated rail line, especially with projected deficits already in play. BEN CAYETANO: "THEY'RE GOING TO BE FORCED TO EITHER CREATE A NEW TAX, OR INCREASE THE REAL PROPERTY TAX. THEY MAY ALSO HAVE TO MAKE SOME SEVERE CUTS TO THE SERVICES." Once rail is built, the percentage of the city's general fund needed to subsidize buses, handi-vans and the elevated train will reach 17-percent, according to the project's financial plan. Add that to Honolulu's current debt service of 19.2 percent, and that's more than 36-percent of the city's general fund on those two items alone. When you add other fixed costs like public worker wages and health and pension benefits, the city's wiggle room shrinks even more. BEN CAYETANO: "I THINK THERE'S AN UNAWARENESS, YOU KNOW. THIS POINT HASN'T BEEN MADE VERY CLEAR." But former Mayor Peter Carlisle says rail and transit oriented development is the high-octane fuel to supercharge Honolulu's economy. PETER CARLISLE: "THAT'S THE FUTURE, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. IF WE USE TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT CORRECTLY AND APPROPRIATELY, IT'S GOING TO BE EXACTLY LIKE THE OTHER GREAT CITIES IN THE WORLD." Carlisle also says rail is the key to keep urban sprawl at bay. PETER CARLISLE: "IF YOU LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE, THIS IS INFRASTRUCTURE THAT WILL BE GREAT FOR OUR KIDS, OUR GRANDCHILDREN AND OUR FUTURE AND FOR THIS ISLAND. THE ACTUAL LAND ON THIS ISLAND WILL BE BETTER SERVED WITH A RAIL SYSTEM." Carlisle and Cayetano do agree on this: the city needs to reform the benefits package for city workers or taxes will continue to climb. BEN CAYETANO: "THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING, HONOLULU MAY FACE BANKRUPTCY ONE DAY. IF NOT, TAXES ARE GOING TO BE INCREASED AND THEN WE'RE GOING TO HAVE AN EXODUS." PETER CARLISLE: "I THINK THAT THAT'S SOMETHING YOU DEFINITELY DO HAVE TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT." The city says next fiscal year's projected budget deficit of $156 million dollars is a worst-case scenario. However fire fighters have yet to receive their arbitration award, which will likely feature wage increases. Back to you.