Oahu’s new hotel room tax will be a new source of cash for embattled rail project
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi signed Bill 40 into law Tuesday, and officials say it will provide about $350 million for the city’s embattled rail project.
But even with the additional funding, it probably won’t be enough to complete construction all the way to Ala Moana Center.
“If the best we can afford with the existing money we now know we have ... we can possibly get to Civic Center,” Blangiardi said, during a news conference.
“We’re not saying we’re going to stop yet. There’s still time enough to figure out how we go the next mile and a half to Ala Moana.”
Critics have said the city is throwing good money after bad.
But the mayor says more than 58% of the money raised by the 3% county hotel room tax will pay for core city services and some of it will go toward addressing the impacts of over tourism.
Including the tax, the city has about $9.3 billion for the project, which is enough to build to Kakaako, leaving the financing for the project’s final 1 1/2 miles to Ala Moana Center in question.
Right now the city is in talks with the federal government about its options.
But if the federal government doesn’t approve the shortened route, it could withhold $744 million in funding that it has promised. It also could ask the city to return $800 million it already provided.
Blangiardi said one thing he won’t do is seek another bail out from the state lawmakers.
“I’m not planning to go to the Legislature. If you’re asking me for an extension for the GET (general excise tax), I’m not looking to do that right now,” he said.
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