Rail plan concerns
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