HILO — It ain’t over till it’s over.
Baseball great Yogi Berra’s famous quote could well apply to the general excise tax hike in Hawaii County, which is coming back in a special June 29 County Council meeting, just one day shy of the state-imposed deadline to pass it.
Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, part of a 5-4 majority that killed the increase Tuesday, on Thursday asked for a reconsideration of the issue. The one-quarter percent county surcharge, raising an estimated $20 million a year, would start Jan. 1, 2019, and end Dec. 31, 2020, under Bill 159.
It was a compromise measure after the council earlier postponed a full half-percent tax surcharge allowed by the state Legislature, with a 2030 expiration date.
Because the tax is itself taxed, the .25 percent tax on a $100 purchase would increase by 26 cents, raising the purchase from $104.17 to $104.43, once the 4 percent state GET is also taken into account.
O’Hara couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Her written request for reconsideration sent to Council Chairwoman Valerie Poindexter date-stamped at 2:10 p.m. Thursday was succinct, merely asking for reconsideration and requesting a meeting before June 30.
Poindexter said she’s relieved to see the request. She said she had already planned to hold a special council meeting on June 29, because Mayor Harry Kim is running into a deadline to appoint members and have them confirmed to the Charter Commission.
“Community members I met with did not want us cutting services for use of our facilities,” Poindexter said. “Especially when we already raised the fuel tax and property tax on them — to compound it with the reduction of services isn’t the right thing to do.”
Bill 159 faces a two-step process. First, at least five council members must agree to rehear the bill, then at least five council members must vote yes.
If the GET doesn’t pass, the county will have to find $5 million in cuts to its budget, because of the loss of property tax revenues from lava-ravaged Puna.