Friday, September 1, 2017

HOUSE PASSES RAIL FUNDING BILL IN SPECIAL SESSION



Bill provides needed accountability, extends GET support on Oahu, raises TAT one percent,

Honolulu, Hawaii – The Hawaii House of Representatives voted in Special Session today to pass Senate Bill 4 to fund the City’s $8.2 billion rail project. The vote was 31 yes, 15 no and five excused.

The Senate passed the measure on Wednesday. The bill now goes to Governor David Ige for his consideration.

The bill will provide about $2.39 billion to complete construction of the rail project to Ala Moana and provide a secure funding source to ensure continued federal support.

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (Kakaako, Downtown) said after passing this funding bill, it is now up to the City to manage the project in a way that is both accountable to the taxpayers and completed within its budget.

“The legislature has taken on the responsibility of finding a way to fund rail and to secure federal funding,” Saiki said. “I want to thank our lawmakers for working together to reach this compromise.”

The bill will:

·         Extend the general excise tax surcharge on Oahu for three additional years, from December 31, 2027 through December 31, 2030. This will provide $1.25 billion.
·         Raise the hotel room tax charged to visitors (Transient Accommodation Tax) by one percent from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent for 13 years, from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2030. This also applies to timeshares. This will provide $1.25 billion.
·         The hotel room tax is collected statewide and goes directly into the general fund, not to the island where it is collected. Each county receives an allocated proportional share of the tax regardless of total amounts collected. Raising the tax does not change that amount.
·         Permanently increase the counties share of the TAT from its current $93 million base to $103 million.
·         Reduce the State Department of Taxation’s administrative fee on the GET surcharge from 10 percent to one percent.
·         Require a state run forensic audit of the rail project and annual financial reviews.

The bill also provides that funds collected for rail go into a new Mass Transit Special Fund and rather than simply give the money to the City, and requires the State Comptroller to certify HART’s invoices for capital costs as the project moves forward. This will allow the state to keep track of both spending and construction progress.

This bill addresses the immediate rail construction shortfall by collecting funds upfront through a small TAT increase instead of adding additional years of GET surcharge on the back end. This will reduce the financing costs of the project by hundreds of millions of dollars.

A rail bill that relies solely on GET will continue to tax the poor and increase the cost to taxpayers in the long term. By substantially relying on the TAT, visitors will now bare a significant portion of the financing burden.

Rep. Sylvia Luke (Pauoa, Punchbowl, Nuuanu), Chair of the House Finance Committee, said careful thought and consideration went into this bill.

“After hearing testimony from city officials, neighbor island residents and the public, we looked in detail at how to fund rail while creating the least amount of increase on our taxpayers,” Rep. Luke said.

Rep. Henry Aquino (Waipahu) said it is important to support the rail project to relieve traffic congestion for West Oahu residents.

“This bill is a compromise that provides the funds to get rail built. When completed, rail will be a great relief for the thousands of people stuck in traffic every day,” Rep. Aquino said. “This bill not only provides much needed oversight on spending by the State Comptroller, it also mandates accountability though audits and financial reviews.”

Thursday, August 31, 2017

HOUSE TRANSPORTATION AND FINANCE COMMITTEES PASS RAIL FUNDING BILL





Honolulu, Hawaii – The House of Representatives committees on Transportation and Finance Wednesday passed SB4, a critical step in moving the bill forward to provide the funds needed to complete the City’s rail project.

Stakeholders and the public testified at the State Capitol today including City, State and HART officials before both committees voted to pass the bill. Transportation voted 4 to 2 in favor with one excused, and Finance voted 8 to 6 in favor of the bill with one excused.

Transportation members voting yes were: Henry Aquino, Nadine Nakamura, Joy San Buenaventura (with reservations), and Bob McDermott. Voting no were: Sean Quinlan and Tom Brower. Mark Hashem was excused.

Finance members voting yes were: Sylvia Luke, Ty J.K. Cullen, Cedric Asuega Gates, Daniel Holt, Jarrett Keohokalole, Matt LoPresti, Nadine Nakamura and Kyle Yamashita. Voting no were: Romy Cachola, Bertrand Kobayashi, Lynn DeCoite, Nicole Lowen, Andria Tupola and Gene Ward. Beth Fukumoto was excused.

The bill contains two funding mechanisms: a three-year extension of the 0.5 %  GET surcharge on Oahu and a 13-year 1% increase in the TAT statewide. This bill ensures that the City’s rail project will be sufficiently funded and reaches Ala Moana.

Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke said the bill also mandates accountability for hard-earned taxpayer money.

“This bill will provide enough money to fund the City’s rail project to Ala Moana and require the City to be transparent about how they are spending that taxpayer money,” Rep. Luke said.

The bill provides accountability by requiring a state-run audit and annual financial reviews of the rail project, and requires the State Comptroller to certify HART’s invoices for capital costs. The bill also requires the Senate President and the House Speaker to each appoint two non-voting, ex-officio members to the HART board of directors.

Transportation Committee Chair Henry Aquino said not depending solely on the GET to fund rail will save taxpayer money.

“By adding the hotel room tax to the mix, which provides and immediate cash flow to the project, we are saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that would be spend on financing fees,” Rep. Aquino said.

The bill now moves to the full House for a vote on second reading tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HOUSE ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON NEW COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS



The House of Representatives today adopted a resolution formalizing new committee assignments.

The new committee assignments are part of a broader House reorganization and administrative housekeeping that naturally follows from the change in Speaker at the end of the 2017 regular session.

There were more than 50 of changes made to committee assignments based on:
·         Member requests;
·         Changes to Majority caucus;
·         GOP caucus asking for changes; and
·         Committees reorganized.

Committee assignments are as follows:

Agriculture

Chair Richard P. Creagan
Vice Chair Lynn DeCoite

Cedric Asuega Gates
Kaniela Ing
Matthew S. LoPresti
Calvin K.Y. Say
Gregg Takayama
Cynthia Thielen

Consumer Protection & Commerce

Chair Roy M. Takumi
Vice Chair Linda Ichiyama

Henry J.C. Aquino
Ken Ito
Aaron Ling Johanson
John M. Mizuno
Calvin K.Y. Say
Chris Todd
James Kunane Tokioka
Ryan I. Yamane
Bob McDermott

Economic Development & Business

Chair Mark M. Nakashima
Vice Chair Jarrett Keohokalole

Sharon E. Har
Daniel Holt
Linda Ichiyama
Aaron Ling Johanson
Kyle T. Yamashita
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Education

Chair Justin H. Woodson
Vice Chair Sharon E. Har

Richard P. Creagan
Mark J. Hashem
Kaniela Ing
Sam Satoru Kong
Angus L.K. McKelvey
Takashi Ohno
Rickard H.K. Onishi
Sean Quinlan
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Energy & Environmental Protection

Chair Chris Lee
Vice Chair Nicole E. Lowen

Ty J.K. Cullen
Sam Satoru Kong
Angus L.K. McKelvey
Ryan I Yamane
Bob McDermott

Finance

Chair Sylvia Luke
Vice Chair Ty J.K. Cullen

Romy M. Cachola
Lynn DeCoite
Beth Fukumoto
Cedric Asuega Gates
Daniel Holt
Jarrett Keohokalole
Bertrand Kobayashi
Matthew S. LoPresti
Nicole E. Lowen
Nadine K. Nakamura
Kyle T. Yamashita
Andria P.L. Tupola
Gene Ward

Health & Human Services

Chair John M. Mizuno
Vice Chair Bertrand Kobayashi

Della Au Belatti
Marcus R. Oshiro
Chris Todd
Andria P.L. Tupola

Higher Education

Chair Angus L.K. McKelvey
Vice Chair Mark J. Hashem

Richard P. Creagan
Sharon E. Har
Kaniela Ing
Sam Satoru Kong
Takashi Ohno
Richard H.K. Onishi
Sean Quinlan
Justin H. Woodson
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Housing

Chair Tom Brower
Vice Chair Nadine K. Nakamura

Henry J.C. Aquino
Mark J. Hashem
Sean Quinlan
Joy A. San Buenaventura
Bob McDermott

Intrastate Commerce

Chair Takashi Ohno
Vice Chair Isaac W. Choy

Romy M. Cachola
Beth Fukumoto
Ken Ito
Richard H.K. Onishi
James Kunane Tokioka
Justin H. Woodson
Gene Ward

Judiciary

Chair Scott Y. Nishimoto
Vice Chair Joy A. San Buenaventura

Tom Brower
Chris Lee
Dee Morikawa
Mark M. Nakashima
Marcus R. Oshiro
Gregg Takayama
Bob McDermott
Cynthia Thielen

Labor & Public Employment

Chair Aaron Ling Johanson
Vice Chair Daniel Holt

Sharon E. Har
Linda Ichiyama
Jarrett Keohokalole
Mark M. Nakashima
Kyle Yamashita
Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Legislative Management

Chair Bertrand Kobayashi
Vice Chair Della Au Belatti

Isaac W. Choy
Cindy Evans
Dee Morikawa
Andria P. L. Tupola

Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs

Chair Kaniela Ing
Vice Chair Cedric Asuega Gates

Richard P. Creagan
Lynn DeCoite
Matthew S. LoPresti
Calvin K.Y. Say
Gregg Takayama
Cynthia Thielen

Public Safety

Chair Gregg Takayama
Matthew S. LoPresti

Richard P. Creagan
Lynn DeCoite
Cedric Asuega Gates
Kaniela Ing
Calvin K.Y. Say
Cynthia Thielen

Tourism

Chair Richard H.K. Onishi
Vice Chair Beth Fukumoto

Romy M. Cachola
Isaac W. Choy
Ken Ito
Takashi Ohno
Justin H. Woodson
Gene Ward

Transportation

Chair Henry J.C. Aquino
Vice Chair Sean Quinlan

Tom Brower
Mark J. Hashem
Nadine K. Nakamura
Joy A. San Buenaventura
Bob McDermott

Veterans, Military & International Affairs & Culture and the Arts

Chair Ken Ito
Vice Chair James Kunane Tokioka

Romy Cachola
Isaac W. Choy
Beth Fukumoto
Takashi Ohno
Richard H.K. Onishi
Justin H. Woodson
Gene Ward

Water & Land

Chair Ryan I. Yamane
Vice Chair Sam Satoru Kong

Ty J.K. Cullen
Chris Lee
Nicole E. Lowen
Angus L.K. McKelvey
Cynthia Thielen