(BIVN) – A discussion on a proposed, county-level general excise tax became heated on Tuesday, as the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee met in Hilo.
“You’ve demonstrated a lot of … conflicted emotions on this matter,” Councilmember Aaron Chung told Mayor Harry Kim, whose administration introduced the measure that would levy the one-half percent surcharge. “You prefaced your presentation by saying it’s a regressive tax. Your statements were ambiguous as to whether you supported it. I want to know, are you in support of this measure? If so, are you asking us, in no uncertain terms, to pass it?”
“My position on excise tax has not changed, because of the repressiveness of the tax,” the mayor answered. “I’ve said it many times over, had the state come through with their commitment… their commitment, not ours… the purpose of the (Transient Accommodations Tax) and the distribution of the TAT, this presentation would not be necessary.”
Chung was less interested in the talk about the TAT tax. “If you’re ambiguous on your position on this matter, it projects to all of us. You gotta be strong about this.”
“The timing of this was horrible. Horrible,” Chung continued. “And to just spring it up on us, that’s kind of unfair. It’s almost like the real property tax thing. During the initial submission to us, no tax increase. And you yet stated on numerous occasions that you’re not gonna raise the taxes. Boom. We have one month to try to work out something when we get the amended budget back.”
“You – and you some of you (councilmembers) – talk about the TAT. You guys are fixated on this TAT matter,” Chung declared. “You spent more than half of your response to me talking about the TAT and how it was unfair and how these guys took it away. I told you guys on numerous occasions, over the last three years. Never mind about the TAT, we don’t have any control over that.”
Then Chung focused his statement on the mayor’s efforts at the State Legislature.
“You go to Honolulu twice, maybe, a year. You gotta be going there more. The word we get from the legislature is, they don’t see you over there. They wanna see you. You are the mayor of the County of Hawaii. You gotta spend time there. You have to be you are our point man.”
The mayor took exception to Chung’s remarks.
“I don’t need you, Mr. Chung, to tell me how I should spend my time,” Mayor Kim fires back. “I don’t tell you how to spend your time. I don’t tell you what is wasting your time. I don’t need you to tell me how to waste my time. We set our priorities based on what we believe in.”
“I resent some of the things you insinuated about me,” the mayor told Chung. “So be it. I will continue to do my job and be open with the community and this council on what we do. If you’re critical of my time and how I spend it, that is your right.”
“This actually should be viewed as a very refreshing conversation,” Chung concluded, “where everybody just throws their cards on the table.”
Chung told the council he is in support of the bill, which advanced to the full council with a negative recommendation.
Big Island Video News will have more from today’s discussion under the tag County GE Tax 2018.