Local Connection: Rail Deal

Leave it to Hawaii's legislature to take a problem with a relatively simple solution, and instead produce a last-minute mash-up of new taxes, favors and political pay-back.

That's the story of the bill to bail-out Honolulu's rail project.

Without a single public hearing about raising the hotel room tax, that's the magical  solution.

Mayor Caldwell had wanted the existing Oahu rail tax surcharge extended long enough to pay for it.  Now he says maybe the new plan will work -- or it could fall about a billion dollars short.  Of course, beggars can't be choosers.

It might have been OK if raising the hotel tax for rail was all the conference committee did.

But the bill also siphons more money to public schools.  Other provisions will likely force the Mayor to increase property taxes as legislators wanted all along. It also bars the city from using  operating cash to renovate Blaisdell Center.

Was this Frankenstein monster of a bill the result of spontaneous 11th hour creativity, or a plan hatched weeks ago but kept secret to avoid public scrutiny?

That's a troubling question that may never be answered.

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