Rail critics, counties, hotel industry sound off on funding plan
State lawmakers scheduled an informational hearing ahead of a special session to take up a financing bill to complete rail to Ala Moana Shopping Center. The meeting is taking place at the State Capitol auditorium starting at 10 am. Rail officials must submit a funding plan to the Federal Transit Authority in order to get a billion dollars in federal funding. Honolulu’s mayor and HART officials favor an extention of the excise tax while state lawmakers are split over whether to...
Hawaii's tourism industry is finally getting a chance to sound off on a plan to raise the hotel room tax. It's one solution to generating money to complete the city's rail system to Ala Moana.
"Why should the tourism industry be charged for this. Why not any other industry? The excise tax applies because it applies to everybody, so the tax is lower for everybody," said Outrigger Hotel’s Ed Case.
Case said the hotel chain has seen its real property taxes soar in the last five years on top of already paying its share of the general excise tax.
"We think we pay a third of the GET tax already so we feel this is double, triple taxes to increase the TAT," said Case.
The neighbor islands are also wary of a plan lawmakers are said to be considering that could have them pay for Honolulu transit project through a GET hike.
"The county councils agree the neighbor islands should not be be paying for the shortfall in the rail project," said Kauai County Chair Mel Rapoza.
"The Council of Mayors is basically saying let Honolulu have an extension of the rail tax and keep all of the tax on Oahu," said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.
And Maui's county council isn’t keen on a hotel tax hike either.
"The neighbor islands already generate a significant amount of TAT. That TAT is charged to visitors but is taken by the visitors pay we don't have it available to us," said Maui County Council Chair Mike White.
Rail critics still maintain lawmakers need to hold the city's feet to the fire and require a forensic audit.
"You need to do an audit that seriously looks why the numbers have gone up and up every year. Only once you have done that and can explain in detail why this thing has gone off the tracks then and only then will we consider giving you little more money," said Randy Roth.
Honolulu’s train started out with a price tag of $5.2 billion. It’s now up to $8.2 billion.
The legislature is expected to go back into special session August 28th.
The Federal Transit Authority needs to see that Honolulu has a dedicated funding source to complete the line to Ala Moana Shopping Center before it will release more than a billion dollars of federal money for the project.