(BIVN) – Mayor Harry Kim, still on the mend following a heart attack and recurring boughts of pneumonia, made an appearance at a special session of the Hawaii County Council on Friday to once more sell the idea a general excise tax, the day before the state-imposed deadline to enact such a surcharge.
The Hawaii County Council voted to reconsider Bill 159 during the session, which was previously voted down. The bill establishes a one-quarter (.25) percent general excise and use tax surcharge on goods and services “to fund operating or capital costs of public transportation systems within Hawaii County,” to be levied beginning January 1, 2019. The new GE tax will raise an estimated $20 million a year, officials say, and will sunset on December 31, 2020.
Mayor Kim told the council that the new tax will help the administration maintain services in the face of a financial shortfall due to the ongoing eruption on the lower East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano.
“The County is in a very very difficult situation at this time,” Mayor Kim said. “I cannot even project what will be tomorrow. The amount of lava that is coming out of Fissure 8 … is something that none of us – none of us refers to all of the geologists – has ever seen before. The loss of direct revenues and indirect revenues because of the closure of the National Park is unbelievable.”
Bill 159 passed by a 7-2 vote. The two “no” votes were Kona councilmember Dru Kanuha, and Puna councilmember Jen Ruggles.
“I’m extremely grateful for this decision,” said the mayor in a statement after the vote. “This is nothing but good for the people of this Island. We needed so badly to try to make this a better place. We were in a very difficult situation financially in the Budget, and the Council came through.”