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Senate passes Oahu rail tax extension

  • Dennis Oda /
    Rail transit construction continues its march toward town. Support columns shown here are outside Pearl City

The bill that would extend Oahu’s rail tax has cleared the Senate, paving the way for state lawmakers to further hash out its details largely in closed-door negotiations before conference committee sessions.

With a 22-3 vote, the state Senate passed House Bill 134, which as it’s currently written would extend Oahu’s 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge an additional five years through 2027. 

Democratic Senators Laura Thielen and Gil Riviere joined the chamber’s lone Republican, Sam Slom, to vote in opposition.

The bill will likely be changed when Senate and House members hash out its final details in conference. When the House sent over H.B. 134 several weeks ago, it had instead proposed trimming the surcharge rate in half but allowing it to be charged in perpetuity.

“At some point we have to say ‘no,’ and we have to represent the taxpayers,” Slom said. “We’re not paying for this extension, the taxpayers are.”

No other senators weighed in on the measure Tuesday before voting.

H.B. 134 would also give neighboring counties a chance to enact the 0.5 GET surcharge. If any of the counties pass it, the surcharge would run through 2027 as well. 

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