Study recommends 400 percent gas tax hike for Hawaii

400% gas tax hike studied

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii drivers already pay the fourth highest gasoline taxes in the country. Now a new report is touting an 85 cents per gallon tax increase as a strategy to reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuels.

"It just seems like a huge tax increase coming out of nowhere," said Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii.
"I'm not sure why they have to tell us how to milk the public and what's a socially acceptable way of milking the public."

The proposal is one of the top 11 strategies that a San Francisco-based consulting firm said should be considered in reducing the use of fossil fuels in transportation.

The state has set a goal of reducing the amount of fuel used in cars and trucks by 385 million gallons a year, or about 70 percent, by the year 2030.
But without something to discourage use of gasoline the state will have a hard time reaching that goal.

The state's lack of progress toward this goal is why it paid the International Council on Clean Transportation $100,000 to explore ways to cut gasoline and diesel usage.

The state Energy Office said its just one of 100 strategies studied by the consulting firm. A state official wouldn't say if his office supports or opposes an 85 cents per gallon tax increase.

"It doesn't represent state policy. It does represent a tactic we can take to stakeholders to see which ones are relevant for Hawaii," said Chris Yunker, energy systems and transportation program manager for the state energy office.

But state lawmakers said there's little appetite for a gas tax hike.

"I don't think it's realistic," said state Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

"In the last five years in a recession, we cut billions of dollars out of the budget. So realistically, everyone is in a frame of mind of how we can save money best."

The state has sent the report to dozens of energy executives, state officials, regulators and other stakeholders. If there's a lot of support for a gas tax plan, it could become a part of the state's energy policy. But officials said that's still a long way off.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.