Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Friday, May 5, 2017
De-Railing the Legislature
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 3:04 PM :: 4908 Views :: Rail, Taxes

From Grassroot Institute, May 5, 2017

Even the Legislature can't seem to figure out what to do about ballooning Rail costs.

In previous columns, I've criticized the lack of dissent that allows tax-and-spend policies to move smoothly through the Hawaii Legislature. But as the session came to a close yesterday, one very controversial bill -- a proposal to raise taxes to help cover the costs of Honolulu Rail -- demonstrated the value of legislative dissent.

To be fair, SB1183 had a pretty tumultuous life as bills go. As it moved from the Senate to the House, it kept evolving. Sometimes it extended the Rail surcharge. Sometimes it adopted special conditions and benchmarks for the county. And for a short period, all it did was eliminate the state's administrative "skim" of the surcharge funds.

But when the bill went to Conference Committee, things got really exciting. Theoretically, this is where differences get hammered out, people come to a compromise, and the legislators present their colleagues with a bill that they can agree on.

Not this time.

The bill that came out of the Conference Committee dispensed with the surcharge in favor of a massive hike in the Transient Accommodations Tax. Determined to find a way to pay for Rail (and perhaps mindful of the fact that the public routinely testifies against raising the excise tax), legislators stuffed the new version of SB1183 with a tax on tourism, a special fund for education, and more.

But when the revised bill went back to the Hawaii House and Senate, the response was anything but collegial. Some said that the new bill was illegal and, if passed, would make Rail vulnerable to lawsuits. Representatives of the tourism industry spoke out about its effect on the economy and criticized the way it had been pushed through without the chance for public comment. Sen. Kai Kahele spoke from the Senate floor to call the bill "pilau." He also blasted the "privileged few" who passed the bill without transparency or accountability and pushed for an amendment that removed the TAT provisions and extended the surcharge to 2037.

Meanwhile in the House, Rep. Gene Ward blasted the Rail project for being "constipated" and legislators bickered over whether to stick with the Conference Committee's proposal.

The result? Two very different bills from the Hawaii House and Senate. The Senate embraced the suggestion to extend the surcharge while the House went with a (slightly lower) increase in the TAT. But by the time the Legislature completed its 2017 session yesterday, no agreement had been made on how to proceed, meaning the problem of Rail funding may force the legislature to call a special session. Given our track record with special sessions, fiscal conservatives (and fans of legislation that doesn't end up in court) can't be happy about that possibility.

The truth is that the Rail project has put the state in a hole that we can't seem to dig our way out of. Like so many other government projects, it is quickly turning into the kind of boondoggle that excels in sucking down taxpayer dollars, but isn't as good at meeting other goals.

E hana kakou (Let's work together!),

Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.



TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii