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Council votes to extend excise tax surcharge for rail

Gordon Y.K. Pang
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Construction continued Friday on Oahu’s 20-mile, 21-stop rail transit project on Kualakai Parkway near the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Kapolei.

The Honolulu City Council today gave final approval to a bill to extend the 0.5 percent surcharge on Oahu for the state general excise tax to pay for the bulk of the contentious rail project.

Council members voted 7-2 to pass Bill 23 (2015), which extends the surcharge on Oahu for the excise tax on goods and services for five additional years through 2027. Council members Ann Kobayashi and Ikaika Anderson cast the “no” votes.

The bill allows the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to use up to $1.1 billion from the extended period to pay for the 20-mile, 21-stop line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. The overall cost of the project is now estimated by HART to cost $6.57 billion, thus necessitating the extension of the surcharge. Critics say they expect costs for what is the largest public works project in Hawaii’s history to continue to climb.

HART and Mayor Kirk Caldwell initially sought an unlimited extension but the 2015 state Legislature, after much deliberation, chose to extend the surcharge only through 2027.

Council members have been discussing a cap of its own and passed one, of sorts. The bill’s language calls for $1.1 billion to be expended for the 20-mile segment. It then says any remaining revenues “may be expended … in the following order of priority:” contingency and other reserves required by the Federal Transit Administration as conditions of a $1.55 billion grant; disability accessibility improvements; planning and design costs for the rail line’s future segments; and “infrastructure improvements to rail station areas to support affordable housing, as permitted by state and federal law.”

The bill also requires additional reports by HART be given to the Council, including quarterly cash counts.

HART Chief Executive Officer Dan Grabauskas told Council members, during questioning, that both FTA officials and HART staff are OK with the final language of the bill.

67 responses to “Council votes to extend excise tax surcharge for rail”

  1. ukuleleblue says:

    At 6:30 this morning the traffic was horrendous and backed up to Kapolei. From H-1 looking towards Ewa you see the long stream of headlights of traffic backed up on Fort Weaver Road waiting to merge onto the freeway. Naysayers to rail who live on the windward side and east Oahu have no idea how bad the traffic is. Anyone who opposes rail should be challenged to commute from the west side on a weekday morning. Rail to downtown can whisk riders past the traffic to downtown and is absolutely needed. Sit in the traffic just once and you will want rail. We should not worry about what kind of tax it will take but to just get the rail built to downtown without further hindrances. The City Council absolutely made the right move.

    • Keolu says:

      How would you know when you don’t live here? Seriously.

      Where do you reside on the mainland and what is your connection to this ill conceived boondoggle?

      Why will we want rail? It’s not going to relieve traffic. The city confirmed this. All we’re doing is wasting money for the benefit of the big developers.

      • FARKWARD says:

        Glad to see that more citizens are catching on to the game! These CROOKS work for “Consulting-Firms” (which your tax-monies pay for) to shill for the thieves–Hitachi, Ansaldo, and The City Council, The Mayor, The Governor, and all the other thieves in The Unions and affiliated Contractors, et al… And, when “Mufioso’s Folly” is deemed completed-YOU WILL PAY FOR THE ONGOING OPERATIONAL LOSSES, AD NASEUM…

        • Charliegrunt says:

          Well said FARKWARD! This is the worst planned and worst supervised project ever. You are also right regarding the CROOKS with their hands in the till. Ansaldo was already in trouble with another project when Mufi had Caldwell contract them. The contractors and unions are also involved in this scam. Why is Nestor Garcia and his ilk not in OCCC? They expect us to keep on paying for this scam, that shows no promise of succeeding? Auwe noho’i e!

        • wilikitutu says:

          These personal attacks do not answer the question. Have you gotten stuck in the Horrendous traffic on H-1?

        • Keolu says:

          wiliki, that’s the big lie told about rail. It is not going to have a significant effect on traffic.

          In fact, people whose commutes times get doubled may end up driving and making traffic even worse. These would be the former bus riders who would rather drive for an hour and 15 minutes to get to work instead of busing to the rail, riding the rail and then busing to their destination which might take 2 full hours.

        • lwandcah says:

          Yes, but we keep voting the same clowns in; over and over and over and over and over again. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

        • Giligan says:

          When we cannot afford the maintenance, we will surcharge all union members’ pay.

    • btaim says:

      So did someone tell you that “At 6:30 this morning the traffic was horrendous and backed up to Kapolei”, or did you see it first-hand yourself? I’m guessing that you did not see it yourself and, as with all other aspects of life here on O`ahu, you get your information spoon-fed to you by others – with their spin, their interpretation, and their cherry-picking of what information to provide to you.

    • Keolu says:

      You don’t worry about the tax because you don’t live here and pay the tax. Instead you draw a salary for posting pro rail propaganda. You have yet to deny people’s claims that you’re a paid rail shill.

    • mcc says:

      So, the City said it would only reduce the traffic by 2%. You still will be stuck with rail because you will drive.

    • caroley says:

      How many people from the West side will actually use rail? Divide that number by the cost, is it still worth it?

    • mikethenovice says:

      From Kailua to Ewa’s VA clinic at 0400 hours is clear.

    • mikethenovice says:

      We could have the public schools have their sessions at midnight. Cool and no traffic. Kids are up anyway playing with the smartphone.

    • EOD9 says:

      Anyone can watch the traffic cams so unless you post a live feed from your car driving in, no one believes anything you post. Every person on the city council that voted to extend the tax better start looking for another job.

    • FARKWARD says:

      Take the #52 Bus and you’re Downtown in less that 45 minutes–with no headache and no stress…

    • Crackers says:

      ukuleleblue, I’m not a naysayer to mass transit in Honolulu, I’m a naysayer to the nines against Mufi’s Train.

      Mufi’s Train will not alleviate traffic on Fort Weaver Road because you still gotta come up Ft. Weaver Road. So that’s problem number 1: the train will never ever reach down into the bedroom communities such as Waipio-Mililani, Waipahu-Ewa Beach, Pearl City-Aiea, Salt Lake-Moanalua.

      Mufi’s Train costs too much to build. We are building steel tracks when the most progressive metros are going away from steel tracks to BRT or Maglev. And most of the cost exacerbation is because it is all elevated.

      Mufi’s Train will cost too much to Operate. Santa Clara County chose BRT and stopped building light rail because the operating costs are about a dollar to a dime in difference.

      So ukulele blue, I feel your pain. I drive in Honolulu county’s traffic every day. But I also know that the rail is missing the most dense areas on the island.

      I also know that the costs will be suffocating on whoever is running the county hereafter. You will be alive when the Operating Costs are a half a billion dollars a year. The 9% property tax hike is just a starter. GE Tax in Hawaii will double in the next two decades. Imagine paying a staggering 9% on top of the stated price when you are in line at Times or Longs Drugs. Imagine your $20,000 car will costs another $2,000 just because of Mufi’s Train. This is coming, folks.

      • Keolu says:

        Ukuleleblue won’t feel the pain of the tax. He doesn’t live here and he gets paid to post rail propaganda. He has yet to deny any of these allegations against him.

      • Giligan says:

        It does not start at Kapolei Second City. You will have to drive and park to ride the rail. Will there be parking? Will Pearlridge Mall allow you to park there? Most of us live up the valleys and mountain ridges, and is no help to Mililani or Windward side.

    • Pacificsports says:

      So why aren’t you taking the bus? It isn’t going to be any different from rail, people won’t use it and it won’t make any difference. And the City already said that traffic in the future will be worst than it is now even with rail.

      • BluesBreaker says:

        Here’s an alternative prediction . . . Ridership will exceed the projected levels, traffic will be less than it would have been without rail because of the people who take the train instead of driving, and also because more people will live along the rail line in transit-oriented development communities. These people will depend less on cars and more on public transit, bicycling and walking, as well as using car-sharing services instead of owning vehicles, like they have in other cities with rail transit.

  2. Keolu says:

    The rail should be stopped in it’s tracks. It was built on a hoard of lies and continues to he shrouded in uncertainty. The first lie was that it would go to UH to alleviate traffic congestion and then it was projected to cost 3.7 billion with a generous contingency fund for unanticipated expenses.

    Now the biggest boondoggle in Hawaii’s history is slated to cost a minimum of more than7 billion. I will be shocked if rail ends up costing less than 12 billon. There was no need to build 21 stations, especially since it will slow down the train. The rail could also have been built on the ground out west to save money. And to top it off, the train goes from out west to a shopping mall.

    I was really upset that the city used tax dollars to promote the rail with lies and just as upset that there are paid bloggers on this forum telling us more lies about rail and that we should smile and keep funneling money into this out of control project.


  3. Octave says:

    Surprise! Surprise!

  4. Kahu Matu says:

    Continue to loose confidence in our state government. There are no checks and balances, only spend spend spend.

  5. mikethenovice says:

    Hawaii’s insidious fees are just beginning to stack up for more to come. First fee in Hawaii was the new tire disposal fee. Then we had the oil change environmental fee. Next is the HI5 fee. Now this is the Rail tax, fee. In the works is the nursing home fee. OK. Now it’s your turn to imagine what other fees will sprout out of no where.

  6. WestSideTory says:

    Can we simultaneously love our children but betray their generation and generations yet born?

    This is just the beginning, already greedy Legislators are seeing this as a cash cow for other feel good spending.

    While more and more families are living pay check to pay check. This extension added to the 9% increase in property taxes that’s been rumored will totally destroy our most vulnerable families.

    • Kahu Matu says:

      Our property taxes are already outrageous. Last year, on the Eastside, mine jumped almost 10%.

      • ukuleleblue says:

        Actually real property taxes here are very low compared to major cities on the mainland. Don’t complain and call attention to it. The GE tax is least felt and good that the City Council decided that is was the best funding for the needed rail.

        • Keolu says:


          Real property taxes here might seem low but Hawaii’s taxpayers have one of, if not the heaviest tax burden per capita in all of the US.

          Your post is shibai.

        • wilikitutu says:

          Combined state and local taxes in Hawaii are about average.

          An additional tax benefit to live here is that retirement income is not taxed.

        • Keolu says:

          wiliki, your post is just as shibai as ukulele’s.

  7. rich22 says:

    We’ve all been duped! Just wait when all the locals and tourists witness first hand how terribly REPULSIVE AND UGLY this rail system will be on our tropical paradise landscape! Our leaders have no vision or understanding as to what makes locals love Hawaii and why visitors are attracted to an Island gem in the Pacific. What the politicians did to Waikiki in the ’60’s was bad enough, but now GREED AND MONEY are destroying local lifestyles on the south shore of Oahu for our future generations. Unfortunately, we’re all to blame because we elected ’em buggers!

    • Meleana22 says:

      @Rich22, you are wrong about “Our leaders having no vision or understanding as to what makes locals love Hawaii…” They do know how all this effects the beauty of
      the islands and how adversely it effects the lives of local people and visitors alike, but they just don’t care. In the end, it’s always about the money. Money is the root
      of all evil, always has been and so it will remain.

  8. Masami says:

    The other way to “play” the masses, no property TAX INCREASE yet assess property taxes at a higher VALUATION.

  9. Shellback says:

    Let’s extend the rail to UH Manoa! Let’s build a rail spur into Waikiki! Let’s build a rail spur to Mililani! Let’s extend the rail to Ko Olina!

  10. Crackers says:

    Here is the bottom line, folks. Mufi’s Train will cost Honolulu County’s taxpayers $300 Million a year to operate the train. HART’s number of $120,000,000 a year for operating costs is only an estimate based upon having 119,600 riders a day. Seattle predicted 120,000 riders a day and they get 30,000 actual riders a day. Rider fares only pay for 5% of Seattle’s operating costs so the other 95% is paid for by taxpayers. Do you think Mufi’s train is ever going to carry 120,000 riders per day. Thought not. Well, get ready for the Mufi Train tax sodomy. You will feel that buronga bar going up your orifice every time someone boards the train–literally on your nickel. And I believe the $300,000,000 annual operating number is just when the train starts to run. As the Mufi train ages costs will rise sharply.

    • Keolu says:

      Crackers, you’re right. All of the rail related projections have failed. I think in Hawaii, we’ll be lucky to get 120,000 riders a week. Primarily, the rail riders will be current bus riders who will have no choice because bus routes to town will be cancelled, forcing people to use the rail. In addition to the ridiculous operation and maintenance costs, the rail folks haven’t told us what the fare will be so that’s another factor that could drive taxpayer’s costs up.

      The rail planners also have not addressed how they plan to power the train. More expenses that will drive the cost up. If the rail costs less than 12 billion when it’s done, I will honestly be surprised. Biggest boondoggle in Hawaii history.

      Because the rail will likely cause current bus riders to have longer commute times, many will wind up driving and traffic is likely to get even worse with the rail operating.

      We’re building this multi billion dollar rail so people can go shopping at Ala Moana. Go figure.

    • BluesBreaker says:

      Baloney. Your 120,000 riders a day number is completely bogus. I worked for Sound Transit. Sound Transit Central Link (Seattle’s light rail system) official projected ridership in 2009, when the system opened, was 26,000 weekday riders. The last month reported was November 2015. The weekday ridership was 35,420.

      • Keolu says:

        Finding ridership projections for Hawaii’s rail should not be hard. I do recall people saying the projection was ridiculous because it assumed that nearly 1/10 of the population on Oahu would ride the rail daily.

        You’re right about one thing. The pro railers are full of baloney. Everything predicted by rail critics has come true. Just about everything predicted by the pro rail folks were found to be false or outright lies.

  11. danji says:

    As expected all crumbs in the council. The end of the day is not here. The 6.57 billion WILL go higher and the surcharge will ot end. Boy I remember way back when the estimated cost would be about 4billion. We here in Hawaii just have to live with it. And the reality is that traffic will only get worse and ridership will never pay for O & M. We just made the contractors rich and of course our politicians also

  12. Kalaheo1 says:

    I am completely shocked by this totally unexpected turn of events.

    Now, who wants more gravy?

  13. wilikitutu says:

    In glad to see that the”contingency” word is in the bill.That’s what the legiture’s bill also has.

  14. nomu1001 says:

    On the news, one council member stated he would support the GET extension because the alternative would be to raise real property taxes. Imho, that speaks volumes about the financial aspects of the rail project.

    They have to work on diversifying the business infrastructure for Hawaii, because it will otherwise be not sustainable, and most importantly, the envisioned benefits will not materialize. Just our honest opinion.

    • ALLU says:

      Our Employee Retirement System is one of the most underfunded in the nation. For some reason, Detroit comes to mind as well as the word, “Bankruptcy.” Hmmmmmm……

  15. MANDA says:

    What a surprise.

  16. ALLU says:

    All I can say is this: whoever voted for rail– you got it!

  17. ALLU says:

    The article reads like a press release from the Honolulu City Council. Was any “reporting” actually done?

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