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General excise tax top priority for Hawaii's mayors

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jan 31 2014 08:35:00 PM HST

Mayors from Honolulu, the Big Island, Maui County, and Kauai County all joined the KITV4 morning news to discuss raising the general excise tax from 4 to 5 percent.

HONOLULU -

The words "general excise tax," or GET, might make your eyes glaze over, but they'll make Hawaii's mayors' eyes light up.

It's their top priority right now.

VIDEO: Hawaii's mayors band together for tax hike

"Understanding the incredible economic challenges that we all collectively went through, we wanted an additional tool in the tool box," said Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi.

"We have to fix our roads, we have to make sure our water systems work, our sewer systems work, are parks are maintained and we need to be able to have a steady and dependable income stream," said Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Lawmakers already allowed Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to levy a 1/2-percent excise tax to pay for rail, but he hopes to change a 2022 sunset date to make sure that money keeps coming to maintain it.

"It's another way to find some balance and make sure that we provide the services that everyone demands we provide," said Caldwell.

Meanwhile, all four mayors agree that invasive species like fire ants, screaming coqui frogs and mosquitoes are taking a bite out of local business and residents.

Lawmakers are proposing a bigger chunk of money to battle that problem. They say they're taking seriously the health of their communities.

"This is the first generation that is predicted to have a shorter life span than the previous generation," Arakawa said.

During a televised gathering on KITV4 on Friday, the mayors also spoke about Kenoi's Health Initiative, Oahu's smoking ban, and a bike path lining Kauai's coastline.

"With Keala Hele Makalai, the path that goes by the ocean, it's promoting health and wellness for keiki, for kupuna, for our visitors and we and mayors are really stepping to the plate," said Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

"Now we have laws that ban smoking at all of our beaches, parks and bus stops," Caldwell said.

"Eat healthy and be healthy. We all can take small steps in that direction," said Kenoi.

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