Oahu Rail System In Trouble

Councilman Charles Djou
Councilman Charles Djou
Wayne Kishida
Wayne Kishida

(KHNL) - Supporters of an O'ahu rail transit system say the entire project may be in jeopardy.

In January a one-half percent surcharge gets added to the the general excise tax on oahu, with the money going to construction of a mass transit system. A proposed bill would postpone that increase unless the Honolulu City Council settles on what kind of rail system it wants to build.

"I don't think it is ever good public policy to have a tax increase going in without a plan for what to spend the taxes on. You should never raise taxes just because you feel like it," said Councilman Charles Djou.

Rail supporters say that could threaten federal support for the project.

"Basically for us it would send a bad message to congress and everyone else that we're not ready to get federal funding," said Wayne Kishida of the Laborers' Union Local 638.

Some say this proposal is not about rail but rather the city's approach to tax policy.

"It's not a vote on the rail system, it's not a vote on what we do," Djou said. "All it is is just a basic principled statement that we shouldn't increase taxes without a plan, and as of right now, we don't have a plan."

Supporters of rail fear this measure will remind Washington bureaucrats how the council voted down a mass transit project in 1992 at a time when federal funding seemed like a sure thing.

"What we're afraid of more is what message it would sent to Washington, to the Federal Transit Administration and Congress itself," Kishida said.