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Council finalizes extension of GET surcharge to cover rail shortfall

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Union members Adrian Rivera, left, and Joseph Gagne hold signs along Beretania Street during a Legislative special session on Senate Bill 4 on Aug. 28 at the state Capitol.

The Honolulu City Council voted 8-0-1 today to extend the island’s 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge funding rail another three years to 2030.

The final vote on Bill 45 follows last week’s Legislative special session and Gov. David Ige’s signing of Senate Bill 4, which, among various new oversight provisions, authorized the city to extend the surcharge.

Some of the council’s strongest critics of how the rail project has been handled — Ann Kobayashi, Carol Fukunaga and Ernie Martin — voted in favor. Councilman Trevor Ozawa was absent from today’s meeting.

“I think it will bring, I hope, a lot more confidence on the part of many who’ve been really concerned about the mismanagement of the project,” Kobayashi said prior to the vote. “Let’s see what happens.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell thanked the Council for their support of the extension during his testimony, adding that “I love you all.”

“I know he wasn’t talking about me,” quipped Martin, a onetime political rival to Caldwell. But Martin added that “I’m hopeful that all the political posturing will end” and the project can proceed.

“I hope from this day forward we will stop trading insults,” Martin added.

Testifier Cynthia Frith urged the Council to oppose the surcharge extension and expressed concerns that it would hurt the city financially.

“So much money has been diverted from this rail-situation project” at the expense of the island’s other problems, Frith said.

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