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Mayor, council leaders react to passing of rail funding bill - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

Mayor, council leaders react to passing of rail funding bill

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The state House of Representatives passed the rail funding bill on Friday, but is it enough to cover the nearly $3 billion dollar shortfall needed to take Honolulu's transit line to Ala Moana. 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell responded saying while he believes it's a good day for the rail, he still has his concerns.

The mayor says one of his biggest worries is that if the transient accommodation tax (TAT) projections do not hold up taxpayers will be left paying the cost difference. 

 "I want to make sure that if at all possible that we do not look to increase real property taxes any more than they already are.. although there are members of the legislature that says they're too low," Mayor Caldwell said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can with HART to make sure that they complete the project.. that they try to bring it in ahead of time.. that they do control their cost."

While Maui County Council Chair Mike White's resigned to Friday's vote, he says he still wishes this bill did not include TAT. 

"The vote has been taken and we'll stand behind it.. We'll work on some other solutions for another day," White said. 

White mentioned that the state passed up an opportunity to collect TAT from travel giants, like Expedia and Travelocity, after a 2015 Supreme Court decision that decided the law as it stands says the companies only have to pay the general excise tax. 

"If they were to give that directly to counties that would solve many, many of the problems," White said. 

Meanwhile, Honolulu City Council Chair Ron Menor says he is remaining optimistic and is looking at the positive of Friday's passage. He mentions that if the revenue/cost assumptions prove to be accurate then the Federal Transit Administration should eventually approve HART's financial plan. 

"Which would enable the city to be able to receive additional federal funding for the project," Menor added. 

In terms of what comes next, Mayor Caldwell says in part, it depends on what the financial plan looks like. HART is expected to present that plan on September 15th. 

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