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Hawaii mayors want surcharge on general excise tax

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 2:15 p.m. HST, Jan 15, 2014

KAILUA-KONA >> Mayors across Hawaii say they'd like a way to be able to raise the general excise tax in their counties.

The Hawaii Council of Mayors is asking the Legislature to allow counties to add a surcharge of up to 1 percent to the state GET.

Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said mayors want the flexibility to raise the tax with a surcharge instead of having to go through the Legislature every year for a greater share of the transient accommodations tax, West Hawaii Today reported today. "Nobody's proposing to raise the excise tax," he said.

Visitors pay about one-third of the general excise tax, Kenoi noted.

The Legislature has reduced counties' share of the transient accommodations tax, which counties rely on to defray costs from tourists' wear and tear on infrastructure and burden on county services. Counties have been unsuccessful in attempts to restore the TAT to former levels.

The state GET is currently at 4 percent. Honolulu has a half-cent surcharge to help pay for its rail transit project.

Having a GET surcharge would give the county more flexibility to raise money for infrastructure, Kenoi said.

If the bill prevails, counties can raise the surcharge by ordinance at the county level.

The mayors' council and the Hawaii State Association of Counties have agreed to present a unified package to the Legislature. The 2014 regular legislative session convened today.

"HSAC and HCOM are piggybacking on each other," said Hawaii County Councilman Dennis Onishi of Hilo, who is also vice president for HSAC.

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