comscore Should Oahu's general excise tax surcharge be extended to complete rail construction? | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Big Q

Should Oahu’s general excise tax surcharge be extended to complete rail construction?

  • C. No extension (773 Votes)
  • A. Yes, complete to Ala Moana Center (550 Votes)
  • B. Yes, plus extend indefinitely to cover operations (421 Votes)

This is not a scientific poll — results reflect only the opinions of those voting.

Comments (70)

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  • West side residents need rail to go all the way to Ala Moana as planned to give relief from the horrendous traffic jam commutes that they face today. If rail does not reach downtown and riders have to transfer to a slow bus to finish their trip, the ride will be inadequate and people will drive their car instead. Rail needs to be completed fully and properly to benefit our long range future otherwise it will be a wasted effort.

    • @ Uku; my question to you is, what if the Rail doesn’t stop the traffic jam or does very little to subside traffic, even if it goes all the way to Ala Moana and the ridership is low. What is your resolve?
      Because the way I see it, if this Rail project doesn’t work, the people of Hawaii is stuck with a huge money pit that we actually don’t know the total cost when it’s finished and the operating cost, and any future unforeseen cost over run. I’ve been tracking your comments on rail since this the Rail post started coming out, and you’ve only repeat yourself. Because, you cannot tell everyone it will work, you cannot forsee the future and the cost. Also, eventually the Hoopili project of 11,000 homes and the Koa ridge projection of 5,000 to 7,000 homes will add on to the already huge traffic jam we already have. No doubt we need mass transit but I have huge doubts for this Rail, especially the amount of money needed to just finish this project. And it’s not just the West side, you also have a huge influx of traffic coming from Central Oahu and the North Shore residents.
      The C&C will raise most property tax this year and that is not the answer to help subsidize the Rail. People are already struggling like me, to make ends meet. That’s all I wanted to say to you, and you sound like Mayor Caldwell.

    • Given the current projection for this fiasco, our ‘long range future’ is bankruptcy.
      Notice that the third option in the poll is to extend the GET surcharge indefinitely to cover operations. That will be the only option because every one of these rail systems (light or heavy rail) needs large public subsidies to operate. Amazingly stupid planning and foresight by our so-called leaders to finance this on the backs of only a million residents. Unbelievable, in fact.

        • Correct! Over 1/3rd of the 953,000 residents on Oahu live below the poverty line! Only 638,000 residents actually pay taxes!

        • Yeah, good point guys. I should have said residents, not taxpayers. When you think of it in terms of who actually pays taxes its even worse.

        • Everyone pays taxes in Hawaii. We have a GET gang. People below the poverty level pay their taxes too! Stop with the whining about only YOU pay taxes. Please.

    • UKu: ‘Horrendous traffic jam’ is due to rampant immigration. In the past immigration was good, now it destroys the land. It’s just like eating: first it’s good building the body, then they turn morbidly obese and eating is their destruction.
      BTW They will tax us anyway, no matter what we say. they spend we pay because the majority in Hawaii is socialist.This continues until there is nobody left to pay, only demanders and takers left.

  • What’s a half percent between friends? Need to avoid double digit increases in property taxes. Oahu voters want this monstrosity….so lets getter done. The mayor and city council don’t have a clue how they are going to run this thing when it/if is completed…..way too many questions unanswered. How can you build something the requires lots of electricity and not know how you are going to power it? Only in the Nei

    • RUSTY THE HATED SCREECHING MONEY SUCKING BOONDOGGLE RAIL REARS ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN& AGAIN. On its way to 15 billion and falling apart 10 years before the 1st choo choo choo,s. STOP STOP STOP OVERTAXING AND WASTING THE MONEY. The City Coucil & Mayors have been paid hansomly to throw the people under the train

  • Taxes are here to stay , if we like it or not. Why not extend and increase the GET taxes to avoid Property Taxes from increasing. Have residents and tourist pay for the rail with an increase of the GET taxes.

    • Its not just the GET and property tax. The next thing will be you gas tax, then registration. And if ridership is still down, and when they finally figure out they have no where near enough income to run the choo choo to no where, they will start penalizing anyone with more than one vehicle. The first one will be at the “normal rate”, but the second will be exponentially higher. And yes, this means you, resident of Kaneohe, and you Mr. from Hawaii Kai. They cannot discriminate against residents of one area, so we all will continue to pay. Even you that live on the outer island will pay and are in fact already paying. State services that are provided on the outer islands will be cut back or eliminated as a result of the C and C of Honolulu short fall.

    • Nah, not grand enough. If the city offered me the funds, I’d build them a 15 story high “D”onkey made out of cement in the middle of Waikiki as an iconic tribute to let the world know of the great accomplishments this one “D”onkey town achieved over the years. LOL

  • The GET is regressive and it affects the economy negatively on all levels. The rail is a huge boondoggle that doesn’t justify lowering everyone’s income so that a few may get enriched, it’s just bad.

  • Come on already. So many lies and corruption on this Rail it’s absurd. Time for residents to take a stand and demand some accountability. We need a price limit, this is insane.

    • The funny thing about property taxes is that if you a cool guy, buy an old house and get it classified as “historical”…then you only have to pay $300/yr in property taxes. There are 250-300 properties on island that fall into this category, most of which are assessed at over a million dollars. If you cross reference the list of historical properties listed online with the C&C property tax website a number of them are also listed as residential A, meaning that a house assessed at two million dollars in the residential A category would normally pay $12,000 in property taxes, only pay $300 if it classified historical. I wonder how many of these historical property owners contribute heavily to the election campaigns of the mayor and the city council members in order to keep the $300/yr dream alive. Speaking of our mayor, he too took advantage of this program for his house which is currently assessed at $2.6 million dollars. For the five years prior to being elected he only paid a total of $900 in property taxes for those five years combined. He did change his category back to non-historical just before taking office, so now he is paying the same as the rest of us….but one wonders when he leaves office in 2020 if he will revert back to paying $300/yr. if the mayor realized that it would be politically uncorrect to be the mayor and only pay $300/yr…..there must be something wrong with the program.

      There is a nice SA article about this at

      It is an old article from 2010, would be nice if SA would blow the dust off of it, update it and reprint it.

      • 100% spot on!

        You gotta love the corruption by the “D” politicians. I will admit they are a bit savvy with their approach.

        First they offer free lunch plates to all 1/3rd of the population living below the poverty levels on Oahu in exchange for a “D” vote. Then they offer or promise pay raises the the other 1/3rd of the island massive government union workforce to vote “D”. The remaining 1/3rd of of the actual working middle-class is on the hook for this complete Banana Republic fiasco.

        It’ll never end until 1/3 either stop paying all taxes or 1/3 of the poor move out or 1/3rd of the union is fired and outsourced. In either case 1/3rd of something has to give for it to change.

      • It’s okay…Krookwell gets his $200K++/year “service” fee from Territorial to cover what he now pays in normal property tax so everything is WIN-WIN for the despicable two faced thief

    • Won’t improve traffic, it’ll make it worse. Ever been stuck in our famous zipper lane or drove by the cars stuck in the zipper lane as you laughed yous a$$ off? Now, just imagine being stuck 50 feet up in the air in a choo-choo when something breaks down and the countless emergency vehicles and fire trucks with ladders blocking off streets to get patrons out of the broken choo-choo!

  • Stupid discussion without looking at funding schedule versus revenue stream. Typically mismatching streams need a debt facility to draw on to iron out cash flows. Such finance costs are captured in the project costs as IDC (interest during construction or AFUDC,allowance for funds used during construction) so duration of borrowing has to be for debt life. Surely debt providers will want that revenue stream in clear terms it’s already discussed in rating agency reports. How does it feel, my fellow taxpayers, to know this is a foregone conclusion already discussed with the financial markets? So then we hear indefinitely extending the surcharge not only for O&M, but for necessary borrowing. We are played for fools and even those who realize how fundamentally poor the planning is still will vote in favor of funding this pathetic white elephant. We have little hope to get rid of this burden unless the darned thing is stopped cold.

    • @CKMSurf – Thank you for your sound reasoning whenever you comment on this debacle. Having experience with these types of projects and seeing what’s occurring here must really drive you bonkers.

      All of the opponents called this years ago…..we knew the tax would become permanent and they would hit the point of “no return” saying that its too late to stop the project.

      The sheeple have lost again.

      • Well, I am happy someone appreciated my comments. You are right. I was rarely ignored all the way up to publicly listed boards. But now, I know what it’s like to have spoken in public hearings, stonewalled on pertinent information and being totally ignored like I know nothing. I think most people here don’t realize the magnitude of disinformation and huge omissions perpetrated by political leaders on this one. I don’t think I ever experienced a project this far out of whack. That’s over my career, and I’m retired. I came back to take care of an elderly parent and watched this grow from bad idea to worse. Mufi (and Waihee) met me in Asia when I wore a suit everyday. He met the MTRC folks and viewed other rail projects in Asia. That was after the MATRA system was rejected, if I recall correctly. And good thing. But merely looking at functioning systems does not mean you can plan these things without any experience in house. Design build contracts for MTRC I can understand. Design build for Honolulu no, too much potential for change orders, design issues and cost overages. That (and followed by faulty technology optimization) was the biggest issue behind our rail failures. I like the idea of rail professionally, but not this fiasco. I would have started by moving the airport to barbers point and then had a predictable revenue base as well as a badly needed modern airport instead of ours that compares poorly against 3rd world countries, not to mention better separation of civilian and military air traffic. No, that would have taken professional planning and vision. We don’t get that kind of integrated infrastructure planning. So sad to see us do patchwork fixes like infrastructure planning is like fixing potholes in the roads. Truly underwhelming political leadership.

        • Wazdat: I’m old enough to know I cannot do reliable enough computations in my head anymore. Guys like me reach a point where we have to use computers as a crutch and we have to recheck work too often. I don’t want to endanger projects if my brain slips up solo. And I don’t have a team under me anymore. I doubt I’d have the luxury to hire and train one either. Moot point now because no one in power listens to me here anyway. I’m just an aging relic.


    They don’t need the GET surcharge tax!

    The funds are right under their nose. Currently the state has 100% of the funds necessary to complete the rail right now all sitting dormant. The Hawaii ERS pension system has billions of dollars of assets currently in non-performing assets. The ERS fund managers have caused negative returns in the ERS due to lack of investing ERS assets into performing investments. Call your “D” union political representatives and DEMAND the ERS fund managers INVEST 100% into the rail and then collect billions in profits from the mass ridership. Taxpayers will never miss a single dime of the ERS funds invested in the rail.

    • IRT dragoninwater: The “D” union political representatives you reference want it both ways, as usual. You can’t touch “their” money; use taxpayers instead. So much for the Administration’s concept of “spreading the wealth”. Recall “Joe the plumber” was told to spread the wealth, and remember when the President, referencing a corporation’s millions in profits and stating, “that’s money you don’t need” (that’s a paraphrase, but almost exactly the words). My question is, do politicians who have become very wealthy while in office while “serving the public” (is that a joke or what), such as Hillary Clinton or even the President, are they going to give back the money “they don’t need”? The voters in Hawaii need to wake up. You’re being scammed. If rail were presented as a 10-15 billion dollar project, it would have been impossible to justify.

      • My rich Nigerian uncle always told me that all it takes is gullible “D” sucker to take your bait! Worked for me when I’ve gone fishing for years, I’m sure persuading “D”onkeys to catch your bait is no different, just use a bigger carrot! LOL 😉

  • Small thinking negative Rail sayers! You all are keeping Hawaii in the STONE AGE!!! If we had it your way we would still be getting around on HORSES! Sad!!!

    • Are you kidding? We used to have a light rail system in my grandfather’s days. It was done away with. So we are returning to a 100+ year old technical base without proper planning. Get real.

      • Oh and my grandfather liked his horse better. He said it brought him home so long as he could stay on top. According to the family he would be out drinking okole hau and whiskey so the horse knew the way home every time.

        • And the horse used 100% clean renewable energy sources for energy and produced low emissions that were fully environmentally friendly! 😉 Let’s not forget they also outlasted my General Motors vehicles too!

    • Sadly Honolulu will not stop at any cost to abort the rail. Best to persuade them to loot the coffers of their existing assets like the ERS pension.

  • Nobody feels the extra tax. It’s the best method of financing rail ever. Whoever opposes this just doesn’t live on Oahu and can’t understand the concept.

    • wiliki, why aren’t you supporting the rail by going to the mayor and telling him to get the funds from the ERS? They have billions in cold hard cash laying around doing nothing but losing value in non-performing investments.

        • Yes, it does! The state of Hawaii collects 10% of the GET surcharge proceeds Honolulu County payers pay!

          But more importantly, are you insinuating the rail is NOT a prudent and wise investment for the ERS?

          Are you also insinuating the rail in not going to generate incredible returns on investment, something the ERS desperately needs due to a negative return in the fiscal year of 2016?

          Please share your professional opinion on the matter.

    • Speak for yourself wiliki. The GET alone is the most regressive tax any state can imply, and it hurts the low income the most. Looks like you don’t understand how the GET works. Supplier passes the GET to distributor. Distributor passes the added cost to the retailer. Retailer passes added cost to consumer. Consumer loses cause items cost more so consumer can afford less. Every time the GET is added to an item from supplier all the way to consumer, the consumer ends up paying for it. Just look at something like the cost of bread.

  • How do you go shopping in Ala Moana by rail. You going to carry your stuff home rather than bring your car ? I guess that means come Christmas time you , Nanakuli Boss , gotta ride the rail every day for a couple weeks to get presents for your whole family ?

    This rail isn’t for working people that contribute to the general well-being of Oahu. It is for the ones with no where with all
    to buy car , or do much shopping for that matter. Absolutely no rational thinking in the planning. Strictly a make jobs proposition.

    The money would be way better spent building better highways.

    Luck I no live Oahu !

    • Don’t worry, at the rate they’ve been surprising us of the cost overruns they will probably throw in the ultimate White Elephant surprise when they announce spurs to every other island!

    • Good idea awahana. Paint the white elephant train cars with corporate sponsor paid logos like Nascar.
      No wait. The taggers will take care of that after a couple of years anyway.

      • Only corporate sponsor they might get is “K.Y. Jelly Lube”

        I can imagine the announcement on the intercom at every train stop…

        “This sponsored message has been brought to you by K.Y. Jelly lubricants, because you’ll need some after Honolulu shoves one big enough for an elephant into you!”

    • Yeah….from the city that can’t even sell ad space on buses for FEAR of OFFENDING a bunch of clucking old hens (Outdoor Circle) running around minding other people’s business???

  • With the local Democrats who has control Hawaii State Government hook line and sinker since 1959 when we became a State, there is no such thing as “extended tax.” A better translation, its a permanent tax placed on the citizen of this State by the Democrats in the legislature.
    They have mismanaged our tax dollars for many years now we hear their State pension funds is running low. I wouldn’t be surprise if during this past year, the Democrats borrowed or just took millions from this fund for their pet projects. I say this because these same rascals hyjack the Property owners Hurricane fund which is now depleted. So if the next Hurricane hits the islands direct, there is no hurricane funds to assist us.

    Anytime you hear some kind of tax proposed for a few years by the Democrats in the legislature, it’s not temporary, but permanent.
    Look I voted against all these incumbants at the last election, so I can say something about it. Don’t complain about the hight cost of living instituted by the Democrats if you did not vote. Unfortunately, again, all the Democratic incumbants were voted into office again.

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