Honolulu Rail "Bailout" Bill passes Senate Ways and Means Committee
HONOLULU - The rail bailout bill passes the Senate Ways and Means Committee with a narrow 6-5 vote.
Despite its passage, there were many concerns raised Monday over the state will pay for the project.
Outside the state capitol Monday afternoon, drivers sounded off their horn as they passed demonstrators waving signs urging lawmakers to finish rail.
"We really, really want to finish the rail, This is something that's been going on for so long," said Keith Webster, who joined in on the sign waving.
The demonstration took place as the State Senate Ways & Means committee discussed the measure to fund rail.
"According to our analysis, we at the city and county of Honolulu, maybe not rail, could face a shortfall between 600 and 900 million, like we talked about," Mayor Kirk Caldwell, of the City and County of Honolulu.
Mayor Caldwell is against the proposal. Senate Bill 4 would extend the General Excise Tax and raise the hotel room tax by 1-percentage point to help pay for rail.
"This revenue package is likely to be viewed as serious and sufficient," said US Sen. Brian Schatz (D- HI).
US Senator Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D- HI) both expressed their support for the bill.
"What you have done in my opinion, is to address the cost in a very systematic and logical manner," said Rep. Hanabusa, as she testified before the committee.
Not everyone shared the same sentiment as the two members of Hawaii's congressional delegation. .
"I want to go on record to say that our board and 2000 of our associates I've gone on record to strongly oppose the use of the Transient Accommodations Taxes (TAT) to fund the rail project," said Mufi Hanneman, CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HLTA).
Several testifiers in the tourism industry expressed strong opposition toward using TAT to bail out rail.
"We ask you on behalf of the 190,000 people in the state that are employed in the visitor industry to please be very careful with the use of the TAT," said Hanneman.
As the cost continues to balloon, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D- Moanalua) raised concerns about accountability and wasteful spending.
"120 pending change orders in addition to the 472 change orders, no the original initial amount for these jobs were $12 million, the change orders, add the change orders in and it adds up to double $25 Million," said Sen. Kim.
As the special session continues, Oahu residents who've waited years for rail to become reality hope everyone comes together for the greater good.
"It's really building the future of Hawaii that's what we're trying to do," said Webster.