(BIVN) – Hilo’s State Senator Kai Kahele blasted the rail funding bill that came out of conference committee late Friday, offering an amendment to the bill that was passed by the senate in a floor vote Tuesday.
Sen. Kahele led the charge to amend SB 1183. He called the bill “pilau”, saying that while he strongly supports the rail project, he cannot support the way the proposal was drafted.
“Colleagues, it’s been 95 days since opening day,” Kahele spoke. “59 session days. And this pilau proposal is the best we have. This bill was concocted in the 11th hour by a privileged few, with the complete absence of transparency and collaboration and accountability.”
On April 28, the House and Senate conference committee came to an agreement on the bill funding Honolulu’s rail project. The House proposed removing the 2-year extension using GET surcharge from SB 1183, and replacing it by increasing the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) by 2.75%.
“The City and HART have been telling us over and over again that the cost of rail should be put on tourists and the visitor industry,” said Representative Sylvia Luke in a media release. “We have taken them to heart and we have done that today without imposing a further tax burden on the citizens of the state.”
The increase brings the TAT from its current 9.25% to 12% for 10 years from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2027.
But by Monday, a coalition had formed in the Senate opposed to the deal. “The subject matter chairs are circumvented, the industry was sidestepped, the counties were mere afterthought, and the public – of all people – were not given the opportunity to be heard,” Kahele argued.
The floor amendment, Kalehe said, will extend the rail surcharge tax for ten years to 2037. “What this floor amendment will do is it will finish the rail project, we will not have to raise property taxes on the island of Oahu,” the Hilo senator declared.
The Senate voted to pass the amendment. However, the House did not pass a similar floor amendment.