Former congressman reacts to Gov. Ige comment on extending rail tax indefinitely

Former congressman reacts to Gov. Ige comment on extending rail tax indefinitely
Updated: Jul. 7, 2018 at 12:08 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige's comments concerning the rail in an interview this week have ruffled a few feathers.

In a PBS interview on Thursday night, Ige said he believes that the city's rail project should be extended through Waikiki and to the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus — and he thinks indefinitely extending the general excise tax surcharge for rail is an option.

"I do believe that the system has to extend into the University of Hawaii and into Waikiki in order to really get the maximum benefit," Ige said.

He was asked in the interview if the surcharge would have to be indefinitely extended to make that happen.

"I think that's one of the options," Ige responded. "I think that you've seen every single transit has, once it gets established, has gotten a lot of support for expansion into new communities to make it more functional."

Former congressman Charles Djou, was not pleased with the proposal.

"So far, this project is years behind schedule, (and) billions of dollars over budget," said former Congressman Charles Djou. "I personally think the last thing we should be doing is putting forward an indefinite tax increase for unlimited spending."

The discussion comes just months after the governor signed a bill to extend the surcharge to the year 2030, guaranteeing $7.4 billion in funding. Just a few days ago, the project's estimated cost jumped to $8.3 billion, $134 million more than the city's current projection.

"I think at this stage here we're going to do this rail project, but whether you're pro or anti-rail, I think everybody's got to recognize that this project has been horribly, horribly mismanaged," Djou said.

Ige's Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, was on the rail board for just over a year before resigning to run for Congress in 2016. She sees the indefinite surcharge as a last resort.

"Honestly with what I have seen with how the city and HART has operated, I do not believe we should extend any kind of G.E.T. or funding on the people of the City and County of Honolulu or the rest of the state until we know for sure that it is the only way to fund," Hanabusa said.

Calls and emails for reaction from the city and HART were not returned as of Friday night.

"The problem is we're going to run out of money," Djou said Friday. "We don't have an unlimited supply of money."

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