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Council kills Caldwell’s 5-cent fuel tax increase by 6-3 vote

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Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposal to increase the city’s fuel tax by five cents a gallon was rejected by a 6-3 vote of the City Council today.

While a number of Council members had expressed grave reservations about hiking the city gas tax to 21.5 cents per gallon since introduced by Caldwell on March 1, it is rare that a bill of such significance is rejected when up for the first of three required readings for passage.

Only members Carol Fukunaga, Breene Harimoto and Ron Menor voted to allow the bill to advance.

Council members cited a number of reasons, including the possibility that a fuel tax hike would be a bigger burden for those living in rural areas more than those in Honolulu. Others pointed out that the hike could be passed on to all consumers since those who rely on trucks and other modes of transportation for their services would likely have to increase their costs.

Caldwell said the increased fee would generate $15 million that would go toward road repaving and restoring cuts made in bus service last year. He estimated the increase would cost $21 per vehicle annually. 

On a related note, Councilman Ikaika Anderson proposed a new bill that would replace the existing 16.5 cents a gallon fuel tax with a county highway user fee. 

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