What Happened with the Rail? Special Session 2017 Wrap-Up
From Office of Rep Andria Tupola September 5, 2017
Friends and neighbors,
Thank you for your emails and testimony during special session last week. Like most of you, I am frustrated and disappointed with the outcome. I would like to take this time to provide you all with a wrap-up of last week, and how we fought to get the people's voices heard and bring light to the government's lack of accountability.
SB 4--otherwise known as the "Rail Bill"--has been the center of controversy over the past few months. I voted "no" on the measure for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, I made sure that I kept my promise to my constituents that I would vote against any tax increases or extensions. Taxes increases are not good for the economy and affect the cost of living which is already very high.
Secondly, I did not believe that the public was given enough notice to fully digest the bill, particularly those on the neighbor islands. The bill added a 1% Transient Accommodation Tax increase across the state, including the neighbor islands. There was only one informational hearing on O'ahu despite the unrest on the neighbor islands. In the 2007 special session, informational briefings were held on Kauaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi Island regarding the Super Ferry. We saw no such thing last week.
Representatives Ward, Thielen, and I introduced four floor amendments that would have enacted stricter accountability measures and fairer tax solutions. They were:
1) Mandate the State Auditor to perform a forensic audit to look specifically for fraud, waste, abuse, and duplicative payments.
2) Cap the amount of funding the Legislature can appropriate towards the project.
3) Mandate 10% of rail's funding come from private investments or public-private partnerships.
4) Exclude neighbor islands from the 1% TAT increase.
Our last floor amendment received support from four other neighbor island Representatives who did not want to their counties to be responsible for Oʻahuʻs severe mismanagement of the rail project. The bill that we received at the beginning of the week went on to be passed un-amended.
While many of us are frustrated and disappointed after this session, we have are not discouraged and will continue to actively serve our communities and bring their voices to the forefront. Please read more information regarding our upcoming community forum with the Departments of Health and Human Services and our upcoming Town Hall addressing the increase of abandoned cars. Thank you for the opportunity to serve and I look forward to keep you updated with our work.
Representative Andria Tupola
Related: Rail: Republicans Propose 'Forensic Audit' Amendment