Rail tax bill passed by the House, now under scrutiny by the governor
It took more than four hours of debate and four attempts to amend the bill on the floor but the House majority position prevailed.
HONOLULU - It took more than four hours of debate and four attempts to amend the bill on the floor but the House majority position prevailed.
Republicans offered amendments to cap state funds for the rail project as well as to spare the neighbor islands from the hike in the hotel room tax.
"One of the biggest concerns we have had in all of the hearings, in all of the years of this project is 'when will the price tag stop increasing?' so this is a mechanism to stop public funds," Rep. Andria Tupola said.
"I support this floor amendment that does not tax the TAT to the neighbor islands," Rep. Jimmy Tokioka said.
But the issues about fairness to the counties, hotel industry and the need to provide relief to west Oahu residents didn't mean votes lined up along those lines.
"Some residents believe that all taxes paid on Kauai should stay on Kauai. The representative from Waimea, Kauai and the Senate President and I have made strong arguments that this is a dangerous position to take since Kauai receives a disproportionate higher share of not only TAT county allocation but other taxes and fees as well," Rep. Nadine Nakamura said.
The final vote was 31 ayes, 15 no's with five members excused.
House leadership maintains the bill is the best compromise to complete rail construction to Ala Moana Center and satisfy Federal Transit Authority concerns.
It also believes it added enough safeguards to curb runaway costs.
But the bailout bill did come at some political cost.
"It also became more apparent to us this session that we must improve the relationship between the legislature and the county governments," Rep. Scott Saiki, the house speaker said.
Big Island lawmaker Cindy Evans who voted 'no' on the measure offered her resignation as majority leader because she could not support the leadership's position.
Saiki says he will consider her resignation next week.
With the vote behind both houses, fence mending is now in order.
"The relationship between the House and the Senate ended so badly, it took a lot of resolve and a lot of people putting aside all their anger and distrust to come together," Rep. Sylvia Luke, the finance chair said.