Mayors to state lawmakers: Give us more authority to raise taxes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The county mayors gave their wish list to state lawmakers today, asking for additional taxing authority.

Last year, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai counties had to raise property taxes to avoid layoffs. Only Honolulu kept its real estate tax rates the same.

The mayors said the homeless crisis and the need to build affordable housing and fix their roadways and infrastructure is straining their budgets.

"Unfortunately we have to raise revenues. … We have to look at all possible tax revenue sources," said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim.

It's not clear what form of tax increases the mayors want.

In the past, they've asked lawmakers for a greater share of the hotel room tax and increased state tax enforcement on illegal vacation rentals, which could bring in more money for the counties.

Last year, the state Legislature allowed the neighbor island counties the authority to increase their general excise tax when it passed the rail funding bill.

But that money could only be used to fund transportation projects and so far only Kauai and Honolulu have done it.

"We worked through our County Council and it passed and now we're looking for another $20 to $22 million that's going to be focused towards roads, bridges and transportation specifically," said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

But increasing taxes in an election years is going to be a hard sell. It's something the mayors will likely have to take up next year.

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