Angry drivers blast state’s proposal to nix fuel tax for road usage surcharge

Angry drivers blast state’s proposal to nix fuel tax for road usage surcharge

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state wants to nix a fuel tax on drivers and instead charge them on how much they drive. But that proposal was met with outrage at a community meeting Wednesday night at Kapolei High School.

The rowdy reaction from the crowd was so harsh, police were called out as angry residents challenged state officials on their tax proposal.

Right now, the state fuel tax is 16 cents a gallon, but there’s less revenue coming in as more electric vehicles hit the roads.

The state says taxing people on how far they drive may be more sustainable and fair. But residents who live on Oahu’s west side, and who already spend hours of their day stuck in traffic trying to get to their jobs in town, believe the proposal adds insult to injury.

One lawmaker says drivers in her district feel that’s less fair since the more “affluent” residents live in urban Honolulu, whereas those who aren’t as wealthy live further out, in more rural areas, and have to commute longer distances.

“People are clearly, visibly upset,” said state Rep. Sharon Har. “These models that work on the mainland, don’t necessarily work here in Hawaii. As you know on the mainland, you have the more affluent living in the suburbs, and they can afford to pay for something like a toll or a road usage charge. Whereas in Hawaii, it’s the exact opposite.”

The state Department of Transportation official who spoke to the crowd said he was not authorized to speak to the media. But he got an earful from drivers..

“They haven’t convinced me yet," said Makakilo resident Louis Souza. “What if you’re on a state road, then federal road, then city road?”

The state has begun a 3-year project to see if the switch would be feasible.

Money generated by this road usage charge would go to helping fund the upkeep of roadways and bridges.

More community meetings will be held across the island chain over the coming weeks as well as an online session for those unable to attend.

The schedule of the meetings is as follows:

OAHU

  • Tuesday, April 16 (location TBA, check hiruc.org)
  • Wednesday, April 17 (location TBA, check hiruc.org)

KAUAI

  • Friday, March 22 (5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Wilcox Elementary Cafeteria, Lihue)
  • Saturday, March 23 (10:30 AM – 12:30 PM at Koloa Neighborhood Center, Koloa)

MAUI

  • Monday, March 25 (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Lahaina Intermediate School Cafeteria, Lahaina)
  • Tuesday, March 26 (Prince Kuhio Day) (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Baldwin High School, Wailuku)
  • Wednesday, March 27 (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Paia Community Center, Paia)

MOLOKAI

  • Tuesday, April 2 (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Kaunakakai Elementary School Cafeteria, Kaunakakai)

LANAI

  • Thursday, April 4 (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Lanai Community Center, Lanai City)

HAWAII ISLAND

  • Tuesday, April 9 (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Natural Energy Lab, Kona)
  • Wednesday, April 10 (5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Waimea School STEAM Center, Waimea)
  • Thursday, May 9 (TBA, check hiruc.org)

An online community meeting will be held on April 18. For more information on that, you can head to the project’s website by clicking here.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.