To close $3B shortfall, HART to seek another bailout for embattled rail system

Updated: Mar. 15, 2021 at 12:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite the financial toll of the pandemic on Hawaii taxpayers and the state budget, the rail authority said it will likely seek another bailout from the state Legislature.

With the troubled project facing a new shortfall of up to $3 billion, Joey Manahan, director of government relations at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, said HART may have to seek an extension to the 0.5% general excise tax surcharge beyond 2030.

“I think we recognize that now that we’re going to have to. We’re not doing it this year but certainly next year, I think it’s going to become very real,” Manahan said during an interview Sunday.

Manahan provided more details on his remarks on the need for an extension during a meeting of the HART board’s finance committee on Thursday.

He said the rail authority is still updating its financial plan.

Because of that, he said its difficult to say if HART will only seek an extension of the surcharge. He’s not sure if HART will need to seek an increase of the 0.5% surcharge.

As part of the last bailout in 2017, state lawmakers also increased the hotel room tax by 1% for 13 years. Given that the financial plan update is still ongoing, Manahan said it’s also hypothetical on whether HART will need to seek an extension ― or an increase ― to the hotel room tax.

State lawmakers said there’s little support for another bailout.

“At this point, my feeling is there is probably very little appetite to provide an open-ended extension of the GET surcharge,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.

“The public will have the same questions the legislature will ask, ‘Why all of a sudden are we $3 billion dollars in the hole in this project? What will the total projects cost be and when will the project be completed?’”

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