Rail plan con­cerns

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY -

I needed to speak out after read­ing the ar­ti­cle about the pro­posed fund­ing plan for the Oahu rail sys­tem (Tri­bune-Herald, Aug. 25).

I re­ally thought our Big Is­land, Maui and Kauai state elected of­fi­cials would have made a coun­ter­pro­posal to the Oahu-cen­tric lead­er­ship. Read­ing the com­ments from House Speaker Scott Saiki, in which he states, “the Leg­is­la­ture has come up with a con­crete plan to fund the rail project that will re­duce the over­all cost, while shift­ing some of the re­gres­sive tax bur­den away from our res­i­dents, who are strug­gling to make ends meet,” it is ob­vi­ous the plan was cre­ated by politi­cians from Oahu and not neigh­bor is­land politi­cians.

Be­cause, if any neigh­bor is­land politi­cian made that com­ment, that politi­cian should move to Oahu.

Now, I will show some num­bers that were men­tioned in the “con­crete plan.”

• Ex­tend the gen­eral ex­cise tax sur­charge on Oahu for three ad­di­tional years, from Dec. 31, 2027, through Dec. 31, 2030. This will pro­vide $1.046 bil­lion.

• Raise the ho­tel room tax charged to visi­tors (tran­sient ac­com­mo­da­tion tax) by 1 per­cent, from 9.25 per­cent to 10.25 per­cent for 13 years, from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2030. This also ap­plies to time-shares. This will pro­vide $1.326 bil­lion.

• Per­ma­nently in­crease the coun­ties’ share of the TAT from its cur­rent $93 mil­lion base to $103 mil­lion.

• Re­duce the state Depart­ment of Tax­a­tion’s ad­min­is­tra­tive fee on the GET sur­charge from 10 per­cent to 1 per­cent.

Here are my num­bers. If you add another three years to the gen­eral ex­cise tax sur­charge on Oahu, us­ing their num­bers, this will pro­vide an ad­di­tional $1.046 bil­lion (which will raise a to­tal to $2.092 bil­lion for six years). And if you add another three years to the sur­charge, to Dec. 31, 2036, that would bring in another $1.046 bil­lion.

By in­creas­ing the num­ber of years to a to­tal of nine years in­stead of three years on the sur­charge to Oahu, and only Oahu, the to­tal amount col­lected would be an es­ti­mated $3.138 bil­lion. By do­ing this sim­ple math, our politi­cians wouldn’t have to raise the TAT at all.

One last thing. Our Oahu politi­cians sweet­ened the pie by adding an in­crease of $10 mil­lion to the coun­ties’ share of the TAT (which I have fought for dur­ing eight years on the coun­cil to get our fair share), from $93 mil­lion to $103 mil­lion. How will they do this? By re­duc­ing the Depart­ment of Tax­a­tion’s ad­min­is­tra­tive fee on the GET from 10 per­cent (which re­lated to an es­ti­mate of about $34.87 mil­lion per year us­ing their num­bers) to 1 per­cent (the Depart­ment of Tax­a­tion will get about $3.49 mil­lion for ad­min cost), our politi­cians will have a bal­ance of about $31 mil­lion to play with.

Do the neigh­bor is­land politi­cians sup­port the pro­posed bill be­cause of the $10 mil­lion that will be added to $93 mil­lion, or should we get the whole $30 mil­lion?

I have talked to peo­ple on Oahu, and they men­tioned to me that they ad­justed to the half-per­cent tax in­crease. Even I, when vis­it­ing Oahu, don’t even think about the half per­cent. But, if politi­cians in­crease the TAT, when vis­it­ing a ho­tel or rent­ing a car, you will feel that ex­tra cou­ple of dol­lars for your room and car per day.

If you think the pro­posed bill is not good, please speak out and get your voice heard!

Den­nis “Fresh” Onishi

For­mer County Coun­cil mem­ber, District 3, Hilo

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