Rail tax extension advances out of conference committee - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rail tax extension advances out of conference committee

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A conference committee finally reached a compromise on Friday to extend the General Excise Tax surcharge for Honolulu's rail project. House members wanted the surcharge cut in half to 0.25% and extended for 25 years starting in 2018. In the end, however, the committee passed the Senate version, extending the current 0.5% surcharge for five additional years through 2027.

Neighbor island counties would also be able to create their own surcharge for transportation purposes from 2018 to 2027. State lawmakers said the compromise included restrictions to make sure the city didn't waste the money.

"What we did in this draft was eliminate the use of GET for operations. It will only be fore construction. I think there has always been a concern that the city would use the GET for operation of rail," said Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee.

"Based on the current projections we have, for the remaining contracts, we do expect that this is a sufficient amount of money to complete this project as planned, as well as give us sufficient contingency should the costs rise higher even a little higher than we think right now," said Dan Grabauskas, executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

Under the deal, the state would have "air rights" above the rail system for advertisements or development. The extension must still be approved by the full House and Senate, the governor and the Honolulu City Council.

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