Mayor seeks fuel tax, parking fee increases to help fund rail operations

Mayor seeks fuel tax, parking fee increases to help fund rail operations

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In addition to seeking help from the state Legislature to fund Oahu's rail line, the mayor is proposing a series of taxes and fees to subsidize rail operations.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell is proposing raising the fuel tax by three cents, doubling parking meter rates in downtown and Waikiki, and hiking the vehicle weight tax by a penny a pound.

Those measures would bring in an estimated $65 million.

Reaction from taxpayers is mixed.

"I'd be willing to pay more if those things improve," Manoa resident Michael Howells said.

"It's horrible, expecially for students because we are poor," HPU student Veronika Ondrusova said.

"Nobody likes to pay more taxes," said Lisa Rapozo of Kahaluu.

Meanwhile, City Council Chairman Ron Menor said he's open to the concept, but added that the city needs to be sensitive to taxpayers.

"Because Oahu residents are coping with a high cost-of-living the city needs to approach tax and fee increases cautiously," he said.

Gary Kurokowa, deputy director of the City's Department of Budget and Fiscal Services. said of the three proposed increases the vehicle weight tax would bring in the most money.

"A lot of other jurisdictions have it by the value of the car. Unfortunately, Hawaii does have a weight tax and it is geared to larger, bigger vehicles," he said.

City Council member Kymberly Pine said the fuel and vehicle weight taxes will impact people living in outlying areas the most. But she understands it will be difficult to persuade state lawmakers to extend the GET surcharge to pay for operating and maintaining rail.

"It's less of a burden to my constituents to pay the general excise tax when tourists help to pay it and people from all over the island pay for it than by punishing us based on where we live," she said.

Caldwell may also ask to increase bus fares when he submits his budget request to the Council. The fares haven't gone up in years.

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