The debate over how to pay for Honolulu's rail system is entering a crucial period.
Lawmakers will soon begin negotiations over Mayor Caldwell's plea for at least a ten year extension of the half-cent-per-dollar excise tax increase.
So far, lawmakers are resisting the mayors request. One big issue seems to be the lack of trust because of one broken promise after another on the cost of the project. Consequently it's understandable that our lawmakers would ask tough questions.
But many state legislators are making another argument that is outright deceptive. They are claiming that the rail tax revenue is a state subsidy. They make statements like, "the county isn't putting a cent into the project" or "Honolulu needs to put more skin in the game".
Let's get the facts straight here. Honolulu has plenty of skin in the game -- more than 6 billion dollars' worth of it. ALL of the money for rail is coming from Honolulu county residents and businesses, plus the federal government. The tax is not being collected in any other county.
The state has not put a cent into this project. In Hawaii, the counties can not impose new taxes without the state's permission. That's the only reason the state legislature is involved in rail.
Past Honolulu Mayors and councils made the decision to impose the tax, not the legislature.
The mayor and council will be held accountable for the rail, and the tax.
This is a home-rule issue in which the legislature should be playing a supporting role, and stop obstructing this important project.
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