The latest tug-of-war over rail is a bill that limits how much taxpayers’ money can go toward the project.

The Honolulu City Council now has before it a new version of a bill that it hopes will satisfy federal funders to release needed money to pay rail contractors going forward.

Council Chair Ernie Martin and Transportation Chair Joey Manahan crafted the latest version that says the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation can spend up to $4.815 billion.

Anything collected in excess of that may be used to fund federal requirements. But maybe more importantly, for infrastructure around rail for affordable housing and for planning to extend the route to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii.

"If additional revenues are realized for the project, it's not just as simple they can just expend it. There is a notification requirement. They have to notify the council of any surplus revenues," said Council Chair Ernie Martin.

The chair of the HART board called the revised bill something it can work with and possible tweak in the weeks to come.

"I personally believe-- I have not spoken to all the board members-- that moves us forward and getting to the point where it gives us the accountability and the transparency that is always an obligation responsibility of this body and giving us the flexibility to move forward," he said.

What Martin sees as a spending cap, Horner prefers to call a threshold.

The city administration wants the collected funds to go into the transit fund, but Martin is firm that the money should stay in the general fund where there will be council oversight on spending.

"We still retain that last check and balance so to speak," said Martin.

Martin is waiting to hear from state lawyers about the process and has talked to legislative money chairs about any reservations they may have about the cap.

But Martin did not broach the issue of whether the state should reduce its take of the excise tax for state programs.

"I didn’t want to press my luck, but perhaps that is a battle that we will lobby for this session," Martin said.

Council members are under growing pressure from voters in their districts crying for traffic relief and crying over increased costs.

HART officials are expected go over this latest draft with the expectation there will be more floor changes on the day of the final vote.

HART’s Dan Grabouskas said he doesn’t know at this point if this version of the bill will pass muster with the FTA. The council is set to vote on it on January 27th.