Governor’s ‘green fee’ plan scaled back to target park, trail and beach users

Gov. Josh Green has significantly changed his proposal for a fee on every incoming visitor.
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 5:45 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2023 at 4:42 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. Josh Green has significantly changed his proposal for a fee on every incoming visitor ― in an apparent bid to make it more acceptable to the industry and lawmakers.

During the campaign and in his State of the State address, Green said he supported charging every adult visitor a $50 fee to deal with impacts of climate change as well as mitigate the impact of the visitors on Hawaii attractions.

But in bills introduced to the Legislature by his office, the governor’s proposal is now for what could be called a “paradise passport,” targeting only people who visit “a state-owned park, beach, forest, trail, or other state-owned recreational natural areas.”

In an appearance on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Facebook feature “Spotlight,” Green acknowledged what critics of the airport fee have long been telling him.

“You’re not allowed to collect these fees directly at airports,” he told the hosts.

The new version of the proposal says tourists over 15 would have to buy a $50, one-year “environmental license” to visit state recreational sites.

Mufi Hannemann, head of the Hawaii Lodging and Visitor Association, said the tourism industry feels that’s more fair because it no longer targets all visitors and is essentially a broad-based impact fee.

“I’m very pleased that he’s moved off a blanket green fee,” Hannemann said.

The money would be earmarked to address impacts of visitors on the natural areas.

“This is a benefit, not just for visitors,” Hannemann said, “but residents will also see that they’ll be able to benefit from these areas.”

Lawmakers also support impact-based fees, like those collected at Diamond Head and Haena on Kauai.

But state Senate President Ron Kouchi said requiring visitors to show a license at places that aren’t heavily supervised would be a huge enforcement challenge.

“If we are not able to get that compliance then we are going to have a lot of people, like quarantine breakers during COVID, who are simply not going to get the license and are going to go to those recreational areas and how will we know that they paid?” Kouchi said.