HONOLULU COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN CALLS OUT CITY COUNCIL RAIL RIPOFF AND DEMANDS “NO” VOTE ON PROPERTY TAX BAILOUT FOR HART
News Release from Honolulu County Republican Party October 28, 2018
Honolulu, Hawaii - I am testifying on behalf of the Honolulu County Republican Party in total opposition to Bill 42 and any associated resolutions that involves the use of city (a.k.a. Oahu taxpayer) funds for rail. This precedent-setting measure gives Mayor Caldwell and the HART Board and you on the City Council a “blank check” for adding fees and increasing Oahu property taxes for rail construction and operations. The Honolulu County Republican Party has taken a position opposing any new legislation that leads to additional collections above the HART estimated $9.3 billion through 2030 -- the very same project that voters in 2008 were promised right before the election would not cost more than $5 billion. (Honolulu Starbulletin - October 31, 2008 - The Rail Impact)
Ordinance 07-001 states, “capital cost and any interest to finance that capital cost shall be paid entirely from general excise and use tax surcharge revenues, interest earned on the revenues, and any federal, state, or private revenues,” Bill 42 violates this ordinance by changing all the rules that taxpayers were explicitly promised would protect them. The General Excise Tax, initially implemented for 16 years of collections, has now been extended twice to a total of 24 years. While the 2017 state “BAIL-OUT” for rail, Act 1, extended the General Excise Tax to 2030, further burdening taxpayers; it also added one percent for 13 years for rail spending to the Transient Accommodations Tax; burdening tourism statewide to help pay for Honolulu’s beleaguered rail construction project. At this point, all taxpayers were led to believe that this behind-schedule, over-budget project finally had the adequate amount of money for completion. Clearly, we have been duped by our elected officials and by the rail industry which so generously funds the campaigns of these same elected officials.
The Hawaii State Legislature did add other provisions in Act 1 because of its members’ expressed displeasure with the performance of both the city administration and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. One provision called for a state audit, which has been under way for some months—and the State Auditor has encountered well-publicized difficulties in trying to complete his job because of impediments from HART. Without full transparency of all collections and expenditures, suspicions have arisen about potential culpability and calls have now been made for a forensic audit. We agree with those calls and insist that any audit be completed before another penny is allocated from any revenue source. If incompetence by HART and/or inaction due to dysfunction by the Honolulu City Council has caused the FTA to become rightfully impatient, then so be it. Taxpayers are tired of paying for your mistakes and weary of endless blank checks.
Act 1’s other provision specified identifying “alternative routes and development options and the projected costs for each alternative route and development option for the Middle Street to Ala Moana segment of transit project.” Not surprisingly, no information has been made public on any alternatives because of the tunnel vision exhibited by highly partisan rail supporters and the self-dealing rail industry. But the Honolulu County Republican Party knows that a myriad of options other than costly, heavy, steel-on-steel rail do in fact exist and must be sincerely explored. Now that the federal subsidy is no longer a whopping one-third of the project costs and is merely one-eighth of the ever-higher total construction cost, let’s not be rushed as usual by the desire for federal dollars for rail. Let’s get this right so that overtaxed Oahu resident are ultimately satisfied with a finished project that was once projected at just $3 billion for the entire 34-mile system but will probably cost closer to $20 billion when the planned Waikiki, UH Manoa, and West Kapolei extensions provided in the City Charter and LPA are realized.
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