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Rail tax extension bill passes key House vote


    The start of HART’s mass transit rail line in East Kapolei along Kualakai Parkway.

A bill to provide an additional $1.2 billion to bail out the struggling Honolulu rail project easily cleared a critical House floor vote today, with only 10 out of 51 lawmakers voting against the measure.

The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee.

However, House lawmakers had some harsh words for Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s efforts to pressure lawmakers into further extending the general excise tax surcharge to provide more money for the project.

Caldwell has said the bill approved by the House today still does not provide enough money to finish rail construction and also cover the city’s borrowing costs. He warned the city may need to raise property taxes by as much as 14 percent to provide additional money for rail unless the state provides more money.

Republican State Rep. Gene Ward said the city has made “shocking” mistakes that increased the cost of the project, which is now expected to cost about $10 billion. He described Caldwell’s demand for more money as “blackmail,” and voted against the rail excise tax surcharge extension.

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