Public hearing set for general excise tax hike

  • The public will get its chance to weigh in on Bill 19 at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at council chambers in Kona. courtesy image

HILO — An increase in the county’s surcharge on the state general excise tax has been endorsed by state legislative leaders, most of the County Council and Mayor Harry Kim.

Now it’s the public’s turn to weigh in.

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The council has scheduled a public hearing on Bill 19, doubling the county GET surcharge from one-quarter to one-half cents on the dollar and extending it for 10 years until the end of 2030. The hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

People can also testify by videoconference from Hilo council chambers, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.

The tax is charged on almost everything, except for federal food assistance programs such as SNAP food stamps and the WIC program, prescription drugs and prosthetic devices. It’s estimated that tourists pick up 25 percent to 35 percent of the tax.

Under state law, the money can currently be used only for roads, mass transit and trails. Increasing the GET will bring in an anticipated $50 million annually, compared to the current $25 million annually.

Kim said raising the GET is preferable to having to continue raising property taxes, which is the county’s primary source of revenue to run government. Other options are cutting services, he said.

Council members, sitting as the Finance Committee last week, forwarded Bill 19 by an 8-1 vote.

Two council members who have been lobbying the Legislature for disaster recovery funding said legislative leaders have questioned whether the county is going to raise the GET under the temporary ability it allowed. The county will lose the opportunity if it doesn’t act by March 31.

“My time at the Legislature provided a better understanding that they are trying to encourage us to help ourselves,” Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy said Thursday.

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz expressed her frustration with the process at the committee meeting last week. She and Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder questioned whether Puna, whose roads are primarily privately owned and don’t qualify for government road money, would actually benefit from the tax hike.

“I’m sure you can appreciate the pickle that I’m in,” Kierkiewicz said. “I’m having to go to the Legislature and hustle for lower Puna. … I’m in touch with House and Senate leadership and they are saying, ‘Ashley, you got to exercise some courage and raise that GET if you want some money.’ They are watching our every move but at the same time I cannot stomach raising the GET when we have people that are in Puna begging to go home.”

The only council member voting against the GET was Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, who wants to see the whole budget before he knows what should be raised. Kim is required under the county charter to submit a preliminary budget by March 1.

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“When I took office, the budget was $461 million; now it’s $518 million, a 13 percent increase,” Richards, who just started his second term, said at the time. “I’m not supportive of any tax increase if I don’t know what the budget is. … Every budget, we’re raising taxes, raising taxes and I have an issue with that.”

The county’s one-half cent GET would be in addition to the state’s 4-cent tax. The county share would add 52 cents to a $100 bag of groceries, with the county share costing $100 annually to a household spending $20,000 on eligible expenses or $250 for those spending $50,000.

  1. diverdave February 18, 2019 3:27 am

    They will let the public vent, then raise our taxes anyway.
    Tax and spenders always need more of our money. They will raise the sales tax again,
    then tell us “it’s not enough”.


  2. KonaDude February 18, 2019 3:58 am

    ”Other options are cutting services, he said” Or fire a few slackers until you get the productivity that they are being paid for(.Y.)


    1. diverdave February 18, 2019 7:28 am

      Socialists tax and spenders only grow government, and also believe that everyone should get paid whether they want to work or not. Just read AOC’s Green New Deal.


      1. Chickie Galore February 18, 2019 12:26 pm

        But Diver Dave! I am personally looking forward to the new undersea railway!


        1. diverdave February 18, 2019 12:52 pm

          Honolulu, and their liberal brethren in California can’t build an above ground one! LOL


          1. reply to February 19, 2019 12:51 pm

            A train from Nowhere to Nowhere where you have to charge $10,000 per ticket just to break even. With projects like these, no wonder the socialists bankrupt all countries where they get power.


    2. Chickie Galore February 18, 2019 12:25 pm

      Can’t fire union employees unless caught on camera axe murdering someone while drunk and at the county base yard, driving a county vehicle. Even then, most likely the union rep will brag about “getting their job back”.


  3. Big ideas February 18, 2019 7:22 am

    People can also testify by videoconference from Hilo council chambers, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.

    HOW ABOUT A HEARING IN KONA WHERE YOU COLLECT THE MAJORITY OF YOUR TAX REVENUE???? AFRAID OF TH BACKLASH SO YOU STICK OUR MEETING IN WAIMEA… A 45 MIN DRIVE FOR A MEETING THAT STARTS AT 5:30 PM ON A TUESDAY. GEE HOW BLATANTLY OBVIOUS CAN YOU BE TO MAKE IT INCONVENIENT AND DETER ATTENDANCE.


    1. LimeyinHi February 18, 2019 8:37 am

      I guess you did not read the article well, quote ‘The hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center….


      1. Big ideas February 19, 2019 7:40 am

        I stand corrected – thanks


  4. Not Displayed February 18, 2019 7:44 am

    Why aren’t they working with state legislature to get our fair share of the TAT instead of taxing us more?


    1. Chickie Galore February 18, 2019 12:23 pm

      Too hard to get that one. We are easier targets.


  5. Buds4All February 18, 2019 10:09 am

    Is that a roll of Quarters in your bung hole, nope its just the new GET saying hello!


    1. Chickie Galore February 18, 2019 12:24 pm

      Oh…lovin’ that one!


  6. Chickie Galore February 18, 2019 12:22 pm

    You actually think showing up at the hearing does anything? They already have their greedy little minds made up. Just watch and see. At least no one on the council falls asleep like the old days.


  7. metalman808 February 18, 2019 1:12 pm

    Throwing more salt in the wounds. The demoRAT way. You vote for Bozo you get Bozo.


  8. 4whatitsworth February 18, 2019 4:47 pm

    I hope someone asks why any representative that is not in Hilo would support a tax increase. Oahu taxes everything and the money is misused in Oahu the Big Island taxes are misused in Hilo. Until there is a fair distribution of tax revenue our representatives should just say no.


  9. reply to February 19, 2019 12:47 pm

    They need more taxes to waste on the politicians grand standing with Trump on lawsuits they will lose guarantee. They will win in the psycho 9th Circus and lose at SCOTUS. That is how our elected leaders win – build political careers on taxpayers money.


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