WHT editorial: GET feels inevitable

The problem with so much time spent talking is that one can become numb to the subject matter at hand — regardless of its importance.

Interest can wane, in that case, fervor and passions, too.

This morning, the Hawaii County Council will vote whether to pass half-cent general excise tax increase. It’s a tax increase they’ve been considering for months, atop other increases already discussed and implemented.

There’s a chance the proposal could die tonight until at least next year, but we suspect it won’t.

The county needs the money.

It’s hiked property taxes, it’s given out $1.3 million in salary and benefit raises to top officials and it’s increased fees. Still, it finds itself possibly $8 million upside down balancing its $491 million budget.

The bill considered puts a one-half percent local surcharge — a half-penny on the dollar — on the state GET, which is currently 4 percent. The county has until March 31 to approve the tax, under the state law. It’s estimated it could raise $25 million annually.

There’s a chance it could die. If it doesn’t get five of nine councilor votes, it’s done. And early indication says it should get shot down.

A majority of council members have come out against it. Plenty of residents during islandwide public meetings raised concerns, too.

But it was the Council’s Finance Committee — a subcommittee that recommends potential bills before they get to the official body — voted 3-6 earlier this month to forward Bill 102 with a negative recommendation to the council for the first of two required hearings.

Those are the same people voting today. It seems pretty straight forward.

But there’s plenty of time to find enough wiggle room to kick this can down the road.

If the bill does get five of nine “yes” votes, it moves on to the next round — a second reading. If passed there, in goes into effect Jan. 1.

A straight kill shot today would be impressive. But with a financially bleak budget conversation that’s been going on years now, it seems as though the county has been talking itself into this quick fix. The public meetings have seemed a forum to convince the public as well.

“This is the last resort,” Managing Director Wil Okabe told a Hilo crowd, … “no revenue, the services are not going to be the same old, same old.”

The Hawaii County Council will say all the right things today, make no mistake.

They’ll say they’re loathe to impose any more financial burdens on residents, though not so much on tourists, who would chip in, too. Hawaii Island is in dire straits, it will be noted, because Oahu has been sucking it dry.

We see the County Council passing the bill on first reading with a reminder that the increase isn’t set in stone.


There will be more to consider, the conversation usually goes, as the can slips closer to the finish line.