Hawaii lawmakers hold special session for rail
State lawmakers in both houses gaveled in at 10 a.m. for a special legislative session. The priority is to decide how to fund a $3 billion dollar rail shortfall.
HONOLULU - Lawmakers gaveled in for what they hope will be a week to sort out a spending plan.
The Senate proposal spreads the pain around to not just those paying the half percent general excise tax but to those who stay in hotel rooms across the state.
But Honolulu's mayor isn't happy with what comes across as "a take it, or leave it approach."
"This bill falls short, somewhere between $600-900 million, maybe more," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
The city needs $3 billion to complete the rail to Ala Moana Center.
The counties maintain it’s unfair to ask the neighbor islands to bear the extra burden of paying for Honolulu's project through the one percent hotel room tax hike when its occupancy is far less than Oahu.
"I have not found anyone in our island who feels its our responsibility to fund rail," said Maui County Council member Mike White.
The rail fallout may have also impacted a House lawmaker whose been critical of current leadership and the rail debate.
Kauai Rep. Jimmy Tokioka got a one, two punch. He learned Monday morning, he is not only getting the boot off the House Finance Committee, but the Tourism Committee as well.
"I was the longest serving consecutive member. I was on finance for 11 consecutive years and how many years were you on tourism nine years," said Tokioka.
The Honolulu City Council fears Oahu taxpayers will also get roughed up in this process, possibly facing cuts in services and a hike in property taxes.
"If the legislature's plan is inadequate, that the funding plan would not be ultimately not be approved by the Federal Transit Authority which will jeopardize the city's eligibility for $1.55 billion to cover the full costs of rail," said Honolulu City Council Chair Ron Menor.
The mayor hopes lawmakers of the bill just wont be rubber stamped through.
He is appealing for a compromise even if it means staying past this week.
"I ask, for the most critical project in generations, isn't it worth getting it right so we don't have to come back again?" said Caldwell.