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Friday, July 10, 2020
City Council defers borrowing for rail
By Grassroot Institute @ 4:11 AM :: 2668 Views :: Honolulu County, Rail

City Council defers borrowing for rail

News Release from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, July 9, 2020

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii had urged Honolulu Council members to reassess rail, cut spending, pay off debt and give taxpayers a break

We'd like to take credit for it, but even if it wasn't because of us, we're happy the Honolulu City Council yesterday sent back to committee a resolution that would have authorized up to $26 million in borrowing to help fund its over-budget and behind-schedule rail project.

"Finally, they're going to verify HART's numbers and have a special meeting to discuss options," said community advocate Natalie Iwasa, referring to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

The record shows that the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was the only organization to submit testimony on the resolution, though others might have submitted after the official deadline. In any case, thank goodness for the Council's decision, and let's hope its members really did read our testimony.

In it, Joe Kent, institute executive vice president, said the county already is on track to exceed its debt limit — set at 20% of its operating budget — by fiscal 2026, and more borrowing now would only make things worse.

He noted that county officials are also considering borrowing money from the federal government, to help make up for an estimated $130 million in decreased tax revenues caused by the state and county coronavirus lockdowns, while yet still working with a budget that calls for a 3% percent spending increase in fiscal 2021.

Kent said rather than borrow more money, the Council should reassess the rail project and focus on reducing spending and paying off debt. Doing so, he said, "would ease pressure on the county’s budget — and on Honolulu taxpayers who are struggling to balance their own budgets."

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