West Hawaii residents chime in on proposed GET hike

  • Wally Lau poses a question to Mayor Harry Kim at the proposed GET increase community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Audience members listen to Mayor Harry Kim at the proposed GET increase community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Mayor Harry Kim fields questions at the proposed GET increase community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Audience members pose questions to Mayor Harry Kim about the proposed GET increase at the community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Mayor Harry Kim fields questions at the proposed GET increase community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kona County Council members Dru Kanuha and Karen Eoff open the proposed GET increase community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Deputy Finance Director Nancy Crawford explains the county's budget straits at a community meeting in Hilo Tuesday evening. (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)
  • Mayor Harry Kim fields questions at the proposed GET increase community meeting Tuesday evening at the West Hawai Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and Finance Director Deanna Sako fielded questions and heard statements Tuesday night from West Hawaii residents sharing their voices on a proposal to raise the county’s general excise tax by one-half percent.

The questions coming from the audience inside the County Council Chambers at the West Hawaii Civic Center, which were about half full, centered mostly on the county’s priorities as to spending the revenues a GET increase would generate.

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As the night concluded, many in attendance said they remained undecided on whether they supported or opposed the tax hike.

“The scorecard is still out on that one,” David Blancett-Maddock said. “Right now, we only know that they want to raise a tax at a time when we’re already struggling with taxes. We know generally what they’re going do with it, but we don’t have specifics at this point, so I’m not one to write a blank check to my government. We need to know more.”

David Scholl echoed that sentiment, saying where the bulk of the revenue ends up will determine his position on the tax entirely.

Sako and Kim indicated that the county’s beleaguered mass transportation system would be the primary beneficiary of the millions of dollars the GET increase would raise, at least in the first year. They added, however, that prioritizing the bus system would free up funds from the county’s recent gas tax hike to enhance Big Island roadways.

“It seems to me there’s a lot more people using the roads than using the bus system,” said Scholl, who asked Kim directly how the tax would be used. “If it was 100 percent to the roads, I’d be in favor of it. If it’s 100 percent in favor of the bus in the first year, which is what I heard — he didn’t answer the question about subsequent years — then I’m 100 percent against it.”

Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha said the increase is the only feasible path to fix the mass transit system, improve roads and create safer school routes.

“In order for us to do all of that, this tax is necessary,” Kanuha said. “It’s fair to say that I’m still talking to the community on what is acceptable for them to support this.”

“The general sense is that (my constituents) don’t want to be taxed out of existence, but they also see a need,” he added. “These are all things they’ve been wanting for years.”

Kanuha said if the GET is raised, he would push for a decrease in property taxes, as he that tax impacts his constituency the most.

Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, who was also in attendance Tuesday, said most of her constituency is opposed to the tax hike, adding she’s looking forward to more input from the community next week.

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“If GET doesn’t pass, we need to find another way to fund the mass transit system,” Eoff said.

She added she might be in favor of a “slower approach” that considered incorporating alternative, more cost effective elements into the mass transit system like smaller buses or more vans.

  1. Michele Baker February 14, 2018 6:57 am Reply

    Traffic is a major problem between Lako southvto Kam 3 this should because priority above busses


    1. 4whatitsworth February 14, 2018 2:46 pm Reply

      Actually Traffic is bad from Kam 3 all the way to Nani Kailua much of the time and this should certainly be a priority. This corridor serves many more people than the buses ever will.

      Unfortunately that will not happen, what will happen is that the GET tax will be raised (passed by 5-4 margin) and then used for the bus system, the bus system will then be unionized and that will eat up all of the money. Then the gas tax that was raised which was supposed to go to the roads will be re allocated to police and fire retirement programs. Finally the county will continue to prioritize roads and infrastructure by the county buildings and north where no one really wants to live and where there will eventually be a park that no one wants to go to. That’s politics and if we don’t like it we need to through these guys out.


      1. KonaRich February 14, 2018 3:49 pm Reply

        That park up north will be named by our county council as the Harry Kim park . They will use that as a positive thing to point to in their next election cycle.
        Also the feds want to raise gas taxes also. It just will not stop till we’re all homeless.


  2. KonaRich February 14, 2018 7:32 am Reply

    So according to Coucilman Kanuha, we the tax paying public, if not for this tax grab will be against “safer school routes” and a bus system that is a money pit from the get go and far into the future.


  3. Michael February 14, 2018 8:45 am Reply

    Every mayor in the last decade has promised to fix mass transit and accomplished little to nothing, if they even tried. Billy came to OV while campaigning and promised he would have shuttles running up the hill from the bus stop on the highway, lol. Needless to say most of us knew he was blowing smoke and that would never happen, but we hoped at least for a few more bus runs or maybe one that comes on Sundays. Pretty hard to sustain workers using mass transit when it only runs Mon-Saturday a few times a day.


  4. shirl February 14, 2018 8:47 am Reply

    Once a new tax is on the books it is never taken away it is there waiting for the Reps to
    ask for more when they cannot balance a budget next year. Strange this new tax idea
    popped up right after the generous Wage hike for our County Employees.
    Traffic is deplorable so the answer is add buses to the congestion. Bad enough when
    school is in session and the stop and go buses stop the flow.


  5. metalman808 February 14, 2018 9:05 am Reply

    I thought raising the DMV registration costs were to help pay for the roads. We are continuesly lied to as the money goes to pay for their six figure retirements that are only funded with tax payer money. It’s like the STUDY money. What where who?


  6. burned_out February 14, 2018 2:43 pm Reply

    No GET increase till you remove the GET from food, drink, and medicine.
    Privatize the public transportation system.


  7. jim williams February 15, 2018 8:42 am Reply

    how about NO!! Make due with what you have people, remember that you work for us.


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