Legislature Approves Nearly 1,000 Bills (No Surprise, Some Propose to Raise Taxes)

Mar 5, 2019

House of Representatives chamber

The State Legislature is at the one-third mark of its 60-day session.  Today, lawmakers met to pass nearly one thousand bills to be sent to the opposite chamber for further consideration.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

 

Senator Laura Thielen

No surprise, but, the Senate and House are proposing a number of bills that include provisions to raise taxes.   Senate Bill 1433 would allow the counties to impose or modify their surcharge on the state’s four percent General Excise Tax.  Maui has not acted on it.  Senator Laura Thielen moved to amend the measure to expire at the end of this year and provide the state with more options.

 

“As a state, we’re going to need to look at the GET additional charge ourselves because we have a huge, looming, unfunded liability that we are constitutionally obligated to honor for our retirees.  And, the worry that I have is that if we keep extending this tax, the counties are not going to look at it as a temporary opportunity.  They’re gonnal look at it as an entitlement.”

 

Representative Joy San Buenaventura

The amended bill will be voted on by the full Senate, Thursday.  House Bill 1394 would allow the counties to modify their portion of the GET surcharge or raise it.  Representative Joy San Buenaventura says the counties should not have any of those options.

 

“My concern is, if we give the counties leeway to use the monies for other than roads and mass transit, that they will use the monies for other than the transportation needs.  But, until they fix our roads and our buses on the Big Island really need to be replaced, I need to be in opposition.”

 

Senator Michelle Kidani (center) pictured with Senate President Ron Kouchi and Majority Leader, Senator J. Kalani English on Opening Day at the Legislature
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The bill passed the House and will be sent to the Senate.  Senate Bill 1474 would increase the “GET and use tax” by half-a-percentage point to provide a dedicated funding source for public education, including the University of Hawai’i.  Senate Education Committee chair, Michelle Kidani. 

 

“I know there are those who speak out against any raises in the GET due to its regressive nature but I want to remind my colleagues today, that with the exception of the one-half percent surcharge for rail, the tax rate on GET has remained at four percent since 1965.”

 

Senator Lorraine Inouye
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

But, Senator Lorraine Inouye opposed the public education funding measure.

 

“Mayor Kim and the Hawai’i County Council is already considering raising the GET tax this year and I can’t subject my constituents and Big Island residents and the most vulnerable for another increase in higher taxes.”

 

The bill was passed by the full Senate and now goes to the House for consideration.  The House and Senate will meet separately again Thursday morning for final passage of more bills before the Crossover Deadline later that day.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.