1The City Council Budget Committee voted 4-1 today to move out a bill allowing a five-year extension, through 2027, of the controversial 0.5 percent surcharge on the general excise tax to support Honolulu’s rail project.
Bill 23 (2015) now goes to a final vote of the nine-member Council, likely on Jan 27.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who has voted consistently against the current rail project, was the sole no vote. Voting for the extension were remaining Budget Committee members Brandon Elefante, Carol Fukunaga, Joey Manahan and Kymberly Pine.
The draft that passed today, offered by Council Chairman Ernie Martin and Transportation Committee chairman Manahan, allows the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to use about $1.1 billion from the extended period to pay for the $6.57 billion rail project. That’s higher than the $910 million “cap” that was in the previous draft, an amount HART officials had said would not be enough.
The draft includes new wrinkles, however. Additional monies collected from the surcharge “may be expended for” four things: contingency and reserves recommended by the Federal Transit Administration, improvements to aid accessibility to those with disabilities, planning and design of route extension, and “infrastructure improvements to rail station areas to support affordable housing.”
Council leaders said they are checking with state attorneys about the language.
In related news, city Deputy Budget Director Gary Kurokawa said property taxes generally would need to go up 9 percent to help pay for annual operations and management of the rail line.
That’s based on HART’s estimates that operations and maintenance would cost $120 million annually and a 30 percent return at the fare box, Kurokawa said.