GET back! County Council to consider increasing, extending general excise tax

  • Maile David
  • Aaron Chung
  • KIM
  • Kona Inn Children's Wear employee Alyssa Skinner completes a purchase fir Canadian visitor Danielle Momy. The GET increase took effect Jan. 1, but a higher tax could be on the way. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Wicked Chirashi owner Billy Lum serves a bowl to a customer at the Lanihau Center kiosk. The GET increase, which affects most purchases, took effect Jan. 1. and more could be on the way. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Armed with an opinion from the state attorney general, Mayor Harry Kim is asking the County Council to consider raising the general excise tax.

After first rejecting the tax, the County Council last year passed a half-size measure, reducing the half-cent surcharge to one-quarter cent and shortening the duration to Dec. 31, 2020, rather than the Dec. 31, 2030, end date allowed by the Legislature. Collection of the tax began Jan. 1.


The current one-quarter cent on a dollar brings in about $25 million annually; the county could take in $50 million if it were doubled to one-half cent.

Because the tax is itself taxed, the 0.25 percent tax on a $100 purchase increases the price by 26 cents, raising the purchase from $104.17 to $104.43, once the 4 percent state GET is also taken into account.

Kim said a new council makeup and continued budget pressure from the ongoing Kilauea eruption recovery efforts may lead to an outcome more advantageous for the county. There are three new council members, with the two members on the “no” side of a 7-2 vote, former Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha and former Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, no longer on the council.

He’s also asking the state Legislature for more flexibility in using the tax money, so that half of it could be used for something other than roads, bridges, trails and mass transit.

The mayor asked for an attorney general opinion after county attorneys were unclear on whether the state allowed a do-over when it extended the time county governments could consider the tax to March 31 of this year.

“It does make a difference,” Kim said Monday. “We should give the new County Council the opportunity to consider this. This gives us the opportunity to revisit this, and I took it.”

The council Finance Committee is expected to consider the mayor’s proposal Feb. 4 if the administration meets Wednesday’s deadline, Chairwoman Maile David said.

The current quarter-cent translates into $2.27 monthly for a household spending $10,000 annually on taxed items, $11.36 monthly for those spending $50,000 annually and $22.72 monthly for those spending $100,000 annually, according to the administration. The tax isn’t applied on most medications or on SNAP food assistance.

Council Chairman Aaron Chung, who had pushed the council to adopt the full half-cent last year rather than what he called Monday “a watered-down version,” said he’s not sponsoring the measure, but he will support it.

“No one likes additional taxes, but at least this is spread evenly,” Chung said, adding that tourists pay a significant part of the tax. “I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives.”

Former Attorney General Russell Suzuki’s opinion came in a Nov. 26 letter to House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke.

“The legislative history does not discuss whether the counties have only one opportunity to pass an ordinance to establish the surcharge and does not discuss whether amendments to the surcharge, once initially established, can be made,” he said in the letter.

“We believe that Act 11 does not prohibit Hawaii County from passing another ordinance prior to March 31, 2019 that amends the surcharge initially established by Ordinance No. 1874 ,” Suzuki added. “This interpretation avoids an unjust or unintended result and is supported by the principle that express statutory authority includes the implied authority reasonably necessary to implement the authority expressly granted.”


Luke said she wanted clarification so the county would better understand its options.

“It’s something we’re asking them if they’d find useful,” Luke said about the chance for the county to pass a new ordinance increasing the tax. “Just to get clarity so there’s no confusion. … Now it seems that everybody is on the same issue.”

  1. diverdave January 15, 2019 2:54 am

    Tax and spend. Tax and spend.

    1. Buds4All January 15, 2019 5:03 am

      DD your just a broken record. But the Truth!

  2. Scooby January 15, 2019 3:05 am

    Harry Kim is at it again. Raises are on the horizon.

  3. Buds4All January 15, 2019 5:02 am

    Really More Taxes do to irresponsible spending? I am shocked. And why should SNAP not chip in for this? Also Anyone receiving SNAP should have the dollar amount deducted from their Social Security down the road so they have to work longer when they do get a job and pay their debt to society. Also lets support Drug testing for all Government Assistance including unemployment.

    1. KonaDude January 15, 2019 9:51 am

      Oh snap! ( . Y . )

    2. Billy Batts January 15, 2019 11:01 am

      I like your ideas, you should run for office. You probably won’t win but you would get my vote and any one else’s vote that is tired of being taxed like this.

      1. Buds4All January 15, 2019 11:03 am

        BB Thank You for the Kind words. The only way I would run is if I get the backing from Ernest T Bass.

    3. paul January 15, 2019 5:27 pm

      goddam right Bud…well said dude

  4. Big ideas January 15, 2019 6:48 am

    Does ANYONE in Hawaii believe in reducing the cost of Government?
    Cutting expenses before taxing the crap out if us?

  5. Stephen January 15, 2019 6:50 am

    Liberals love spending other
    people’s money. translation of we want the right to spend it as we please means more waste , corruption and more pay raises.

  6. beyond kona January 15, 2019 7:02 am

    The “no new taxes” Mayor continues to betray his words when he was candidate Kim, and who won by only 17% of the registered voters participating. Don’t vote, don’t complain.

    1. Buds4All January 15, 2019 9:53 am

      And our state re-elects the crook!

      1. Chickie Galore January 15, 2019 5:10 pm

        Yep. Harry is sure making Ben Cayatano and Jeremy Harris look honest!

  7. 4whatitsworth January 15, 2019 8:05 am

    What a surprise.. massive tax and fee increases and still not enough. The current policies create poverty and hardship for everyone except the government. Enough!

    P.S. lets see how Rebecca Villegas votes. Is she a friend of working people or a foe?

    1. Chickie Galore January 15, 2019 5:09 pm

      Well hate to say it, but I am betting she votes for it! Doesn’t mean she doesn’t like us! Just means everyone in Hawaii is a freaking socialist. (ok, almost everyone.)

      1. reply to January 15, 2019 6:44 pm

        “everyone in Hawaii is a freaking socialist”…aka “communist”

      2. 4whatitsworth January 16, 2019 10:06 am

        I hope you are wrong here. Currently Hawaii seems to be accelerating the policies that make everyone except the government poor. The poor get poorer, and the rich get poorer.

        Time to say enough is enough and judging by this forum there are growing numbers that are fed up as well. If Villegas votes to increase the funding for Hilo while very little is returned to Kona she is now part of the problem.

  8. kohalak January 15, 2019 8:57 am

    “He is also asking the state Legislature for more flexibility in using the tax money, so that half of it could be used for something other than roads, bridges, trails and mass transit. ”

    So where do you all think this money will go? It sure would be nice to be a “friend” of Harry…

    1. guest January 15, 2019 3:20 pm

      The money will go to someones Uncle or Braddah but nothing more will get done…..another day in Hawaii.

  9. Alohajonny January 15, 2019 10:14 am

    Hate Trump. This is the other choice.

  10. metalman808 January 15, 2019 11:14 am

    Consider means. ITS A DONE DEAL.

  11. FreddyBurke January 15, 2019 12:34 pm

    “…the tax itself is taxed…” Tells you all you need to know.

  12. Carl Dirkers January 15, 2019 3:13 pm

    How about easing taxes, encouraging business development generating more money more jobs less welfare snap and all that and then taxing in an easy way the expanded economy,, dont like tourism,, try farming, others have grown stuff here for years and years, takes a little get up an go,,but sometimes seems the get up and go got up and went. so more tax and more public assistance do da day

    1. Chickie Galore January 15, 2019 5:07 pm

      Please sir! Stop being logical. It is a banned practice in this state!

      P.S. Harry is a self serving crook.

      1. Carl Dirkers January 16, 2019 7:26 am

        Makes it easier for the ones with positive vision.brights and excell..

  13. paul January 15, 2019 5:28 pm

    again?????Christ,will the tax and spend on welfare ever end??????…

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