Hawaii's mayors want ability to raise excise tax surcharge

Published On: Jan 15 2014 06:19:58 PM HST

Hawaii's mayors are asking for more control over the state's general excise tax.

All four asked lawmakers Wednesday to allow the counties to add a surcharge of up to one percent.

The state's GET is currently at 4 percent. Honolulu has a half-percent surcharge to help pay for rail.

The mayors say the state has recently reduced their share of the Transient Accommodations Tax, or TAT.

However, they all say they're not looking to increase their county's GET right now.

"Overall, it's about asking permission to have the ability if we choose to, up to 1 percent," said Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

"The counties of Hawaii, the only tool we have in our toolbox are property taxes," Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said. "So we either raise property taxes or there's no other opportunities to increase revenue."

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa said, "Every year we come here and have discussions about what's going to happen with the TAT, and it's been very difficult to work a budget pre-legislative session, not knowing what we're going to end up at the end of the legislative session."

"Like any mass transit system around the country or the world, it is subsidized and this is a way to make sure that the price remains affordable and we see even more people riding it," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

State lawmakers said they would rather have each county council pass a resolution to increase their GET surcharge, then address it.

Also on Wednesday, the mayors asked legislators to make a liability protection law at recreational areas permanent.


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