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Monday, September 01, 2014         

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Council in gear to reject rail-bill vetoes

Members passed the measures with enough votes to override the mayor

By B.J. Reyes

POSTED:



The City Council will have a special meeting Monday to consider overriding Mayor Peter Carlisle's vetoes of three rail-related measures, setting up a possible court fight over the fiscal independence of the soon-to-be-formed Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

All of the bills were passed by the Council earlier this month with enough votes for overrides.

Bills Carlisle rejected Tuesday included the operating and construction program budgets for the transit authority, known as HART. Carlisle objected to language the Council added that gives it the final say over spending decisions by the semiautonomous authority.

Key Council members already have said they are confident colleagues will stand firm, though some also have expressed a willingness to work with the administration to avoid costly litigation.

VETOED

Mayor Peter Carlisle has rejected four bills:

» 33-11: Operating budget for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

» 34-11: Capital improvement program budget for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

» 35-11: Authorizes reimbursement from the transit fund to the general and highway funds for rail-related expenses incurred before the creation of the transit fund in 2007

» 36-11: Reinstates a discount on tipping fees charged to companies that deliver recycling residue to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill

Source: City and County of Honolulu

 

"I, personally, don't think that a lawsuit is necessary," said Councilman Stanley Chang. "I look forward to working closely with the administration to resolve these differences."

Carlisle stopped short of saying he would take the issue to court, saying that would depend on other factors. However, he also said he did not think a compromise could be reached.

The administration contends the 10-member authority's spending decisions should be independent of the Council, similar to the semiautonomous Board of Water Supply. Carlisle said the Council's HART budget contradict's the 2010 City Charter amendment question voters approved that asked: Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to create a semiautonomous public transit authority responsible for the planning, construction, operation, maintenance and expansion of the city's fixed guideway mass transit system?

"In my opinion, what they're doing is in conflict with what the voters voted for," Carlisle said.

The budget measures, Bills 33 and 34, were passed 8-1, with Councilman Tom Berg voting no.

Members voted unanimously in favor of Bill 35, which authorizes reimbursement from the transit fund to the general and highway funds for rail-related expenses incurred before the creation of the transit fund in 2007.

Carlisle vetoed the measure, citing a state attorney general's opinion saying the measure would go against state law.

A veto of an unrelated measure could stand. Bill 36 would reinstate a discount on tipping fees charged to companies that deliver recycling residue to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.

The measure passed by a 7-2 vote, but two members who voted in favor — Councilmen Ikaika Anderson and Romy Cachola — did so with reservations. Councilman Breene Harimoto and Berg voted no. Six votes are needed for an override.

Bill 36 reverses the actions of the Council and mayor earlier this year that ended a decades-old subsidy providing an 80 percent discount on such tipping fees. Bill 36 would have reinstated the discount at 50 percent with a phased reduction to 20 percent.

Community members have criticized the discount as "corporate welfare" primarily benefiting a single company, Schnitzer Steel Hawaii, which received about $2 million from the program last year. Schnitzer argued that the discount was applied equally, and its benefits were based on the size and scale of its recycling operations.

"The Council agrees that the subsidy should be eliminated, but has always favored a gradual process rather than an immediate elimination to avoid any adverse impacts on recycling programs," Councilman Ernie Martin said earlier this week.

Carlisle said Bill 36 would cost the city about $2 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The subsidy had cost the city more than $26 million since 1998.






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