Deadline looms for Hawaii lawmakers to reach agreement on rail f - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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Deadline looms for Hawaii lawmakers to reach agreement on rail funding

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The clock is ticking at the state Capitol for lawmakers to reach a compromise that would essentially save the embattled Honolulu rail, but the likelihood of senators and representatives agreeing on a deal to fund the mass transit project is unlikely after weeks of volatile negotiations have fallen through.

Honolulu city and county leaders and officials with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation have been asking for a 10-year extension of the existing 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge.

After much debate, the Senate got on board with that plan, but the House would not agree to what many representatives considered a longterm bailout. Instead, they wanted to increase the state's hotel room tax by 1 percent to help cover rail's shortfall.

The infighting between the chambers and the inability for lawmakers to come up with a funding solution has already lead to some major changes in leadership at the Capitol.

Senate Ways and Means Chair Jill Tokuda learned Wednesday she will be ousted from her powerful committee position, and word is circulating that House Speaker Joe Souki will also be removed and replaced.

It's unclear who will be taking over their positions though some names are already being tossed around -- including Senate Majority Whip Donovan Dela Cruz and House Majority Leader Scott Saiki.

Gov. David Ige cited the Legislature's volatile division as one of the reasons he has rejected a request to extend this Legislative session to give lawmakers more time to hammer out a new deal.

It's anyone's guess what could happen.

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