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Three Men Rescued From Sinking Vessel Off The Big Island

Three men were rescued from a sinking vessel 6 miles off the Big Island this morning:

Situation Found at Scene: 3 adult males in their 60’s clinging to a partially sunken 22 ft. fishing vessel 6-miles offshore. The victims were able to contact the Coast Guard and Hawaii Fire Department who collaborated to execute the rescue of the three men utilizing Rescue Boat 7 out of the Kailua-Kona Fire Station. The three men were evaluated by Medic 12 out of the Keauhou Fire Station and released.

Remarks: The three men were able to utilize their cell phones to call for help and visually make their position known to Rescue Boat 7. Rescue Boat 7 personnel made contact with the victims who were able to signal and respond to rescue personnel directives to help identify each other in the early morning darkness. All three men had lifejackets and were with the vessel on arrival of the Rescue team. According to the victims, they were in the water for approximately an hour and a half. None of them were injured. Rescue Personnel left lights attached to the vessel to alert other boats of the Navigational hazard.

Governor Ige Welcomes Japan Airlines’ Inaugural Flight From Narita to Kona

Gov. David Ige and the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation welcomed Japan Airlines’ inaugural flight from Narita International Airport to the Kona International Airport at Keāhole on Hawai‘i Island. The new daily, non-stop service marks JAL’s return to Kona.

The new service is expected to generate $9.8 million in tax revenue and create 900 new jobs, according to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

“We warmly welcome Japan Airlines back to Kona and are extremely excited about the new daily service to Kona, which is on its way to becoming Hawai‘i’s second major international port of entry,” said Gov. Ige. JAL has offered excellent service to the Aloha State for more than 60 years, and has played a significant role in expanding and supporting our tourism industry and economy. We are also thankful for the opportunity for cultural exchange with Japan.”

“Our thanks go to Japan Airlines and Chairman Masaru Onishi for being such a great and loyal friend to Hawaii’s tourism industry. This new non-stop flight connecting Tokyo and Kona reinforces Japan Airlines’ commitment to support travel to the Hawaiian Islands, while offering its customers an enticing new vacation experience to discover the allure and natural beauty found on the island of Hawai‘i,” said George Szigeti, president and chief executive officer Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

In addition to JAL’s Narita to Kona service, the airline currently has six non-stop flights between Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Honolulu.

Curb Ramp Repairs on Keawe Street Intersections

The Department of Public Works and its contractor T&T Electric, Inc. will be repairing the curb ramps at the Keawe St./Haili St. intersection and the Keawe St./Kalākaua St. intersection beginning on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 and should be completed by Friday, September 22, 2017, weather and construction conditions permitting. The Contractor’s working hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The intersections will remain open while repair work is being done. Motorists are advised to expect delays and are encouraged to use alternate routes.

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding.

If there are any questions or concerns, please call Barett Otani, Information and Education Specialist, at 961-8787.

Mayor Kim’s Letter to HICOP Board – RE: Helicopter Tours

Dear Mr. Ernst & HICOP Board:
RE: Helicopter Tours

In our meeting, I clearly indicated how I will proceed.

  • Request a meeting with Helicopter Tour Industry to begin dialogue with industry.
  • Request organization of a program by industry to address concerns.
  • Plan working group meeting of community and industry to see if any anything can be addressed together.

Meeting of first two bullets have been completed and waiting for report.

I was not aware that at this time a definitive position was established by HICOP and believed that the desire was to see if the whole issue can be discussed to work out acceptable solutions. Your correspondence indicate otherwise. If I am incorrect, please correct me.

I truly feel that at this time an effort should be made to address the problem by coming together for open dialogue, regardless of past attempts. As you know, the authority of this issues is with the FAA.

Sincerely,
Harry Kim
Mayor

Hōkūleʻa to Visit O’ahu’s North Shore – Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail

Hōkūleʻa is scheduled to depart the Marine Education Training Center (METC) at Sand Island on Thursday, September 14, and will sail to the next stop on the Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail: Haleʻiwa, Oʻahu. During the 10-day Haleʻiwa engagement, crew members will participate with the community in events and activities that will highlight the recent Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage as well as the work being done on Oʻahu’s North Shore to care for Island Earth.

Events during the stop in Haleʻiwa will include outreach events, local school visits, service projects, crew presentations, and canoe tours. The following events have been scheduled to date. The public is encouraged to check hokulea.com for daily updates:

Haleʻiwa Engagement Schedule (*All dates and times subject to change)
(Local contact email: hokuinhaleiwa@gmail.com. Updates on Wanana Paoa Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/wanana.paoa.7)

Friday, September 15

7:00 p.m.
Hōkūleʻa Crew Talk Story, Surfer, the Bar at Turtle Bay ResortPolynesian Voyaging Society president and navigator Nainoa Thompson along with crewmembers from the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage will share stories from the epic three-year journey around the globe. Free and open to the public.Participants (tentative): Nainoa Thompson, Kamaki Worthington, Kaimana Bacarse, Eric Co, Sam Kapoi, Kalepa Baybayan, http://www.turtlebayresort.com/Oahu-Restaurants/Surfer-The-Bar

Saturday, September 16

10:00 a.m.
Arrival ceremony at Haleʻiwa Harbor
Join the Hale’iwa community to ho’okipa Hōkūle’a to Hale’iwa.

1 – 5 p.m.
Public Canoe Tours, Haleʻiwa Harbor
Visit Hōkūle’a and take a tour of the wa’a

Sunday, September 17

1 – 5 p.m.
Public Canoe Tours, Haleʻiwa Harbor
Visit Hōkūle’a and take a tour of the wa’a

7:00 p.m.
Hōkūleʻa Crew Talk Story, Surfer, the Bar at Turtle Bay Resort
Polynesian Voyaging Society navigators will share how they apply ancestral wisdom and ʻike through storms, doldrums, and more in their experiences around the world. Free and open to the public. Participants (tentative) – Kamaki Worthington moderator, Austin Kino, Noelani Kamalu, Jason Patterson, Bryson Hoe, Kaleo Wong

Monday, September 18 & Tuesday, September 19

All Day Scheduled school tours and visits. (By appointment only)

Wednesday, September 20

All Day Scheduled school tours and visits. (By appointment only)

5 – 9 p.m.
Hōkūleʻa Crew and North Shore Community Talk Story at Waimea Valley
Special guests from Hōkūleʻa crew and local organizations will share inspirational stories about the Worldwide Voyage and discuss how it has catalyzed action in our North Shore, Oʻahu community. Celebrate progress and learn how you and your ʻohana can be involved. https://www.waimeavalley.net/

Thursday, September 21

All Day Scheduled school tours and visits. (By appointment only)

Friday, September 22

Morning Scheduled school tours and visits. (By appointment only)

6:30 – 9 p.m.
Hōkūleʻa Crew Talk Story at Patagonia Haleʻiwa
John Bilderback will present a photographerʻs view tracking brilliant moments and events throughout the epic three-year Mālama Honua journey around the globe alongside Worldwide Voyage crewmembers who sailed Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia. Free and open to the public.
http://www.patagonia.com/patagonia-north-shore-66-250-kamehameha-highway-haleiwa-hawaii-96712/store_924602999.html

Saturday, September 23

2 p.m. Hōkūleʻa departs for Hanalei

About the Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail
The Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail will give PVS an opportunity to thank Hawaiʻi’s people, bring Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia home to all of Hawaiʻi, share lessons learned from the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage and deepen the organization’s connection and understanding of the important work being done here in the islands to care for the earth. During the port visits, PVS will engage with schools and organizations through outreach events, service projects, crew presentations and canoe tours.

September Port Dates (tentative and subject to change):
• September 15 – 22, 2017: Haleʻiwa
• September 24 – 26, 2017: Hanalei

October through May port dates will be posted as they become available.

Kīlau Stream Bridge Work – Temporary Bridge Closure 8:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. Monday Through Fridays

The Department of Public Works will begin work on the Kīlau Stream Bridge, located on Manowai‘ōpae Homestead Road in Laupāhoehoe on Monday, September 11, 2017 through about October 31, 2017, weather and construction conditions permitting.

The bridge will be closed from 8:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., Monday through Friday, in which no pedestrians or vehicles will be allowed to use the bridge with the exception of emergency response teams during an emergency event. The bridge will be open during non-working hours, on weekends and holidays.

The repair work involves the rehabilitation of the existing bridge structure which includes replacing the old timber members with new timber members and hardware.

Motorist and residents are advised to exercise caution when traveling in the vicinity of the construction zone.

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding. If there are any questions or concerns, please call Barett Otani, Information and Education Specialist, at 961-8787.

Close Family Relatives and Refugees May Enter United States, Federal Appeals Court Rules

This afternoon the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the July 13, 2017 Hawaii district court order in the travel ban case, Hawaii v. Trump, allowing the entry to the United States of close family members and refugees with formal assurances from a United States resettlement agency.

Click tor read full opinion

On June 26, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued an order in this case that the travel ban could not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States, including those with a “close familial relationship.” The same standard applies with respect to refugee admissions. The federal government subsequently issued guidance that such “close familial relationships” did not include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of people currently living in the United States.

Attorney General Chin said, “Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit keeps families together. It gives vetted refugees a second chance. The Trump administration keeps taking actions with no legal basis. We will keep fighting back.”

The Ninth Circuit’s order states in part:

[I]t is clear that the Supreme Court’s use of “close familial relationship[s]” meant that the Court wanted to exclude individuals who have no connection with the United States or have remote familial relationships that would not qualify as “bona fide.” The Government does not meaningfully argue how grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States can be considered to have “no connection” to or “lack any bona fide relationship” with persons in the United States. Nor does the Government explain how its proposed scope of exclusion would avoid the infliction of concrete hardships on such individuals’ family members in the United States. Stated simply, the Government does not offer a persuasive explanation for why a mother-in-law is clearly a bona fide relationship, in the Supreme Court’s prior reasoning, but a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin is not.

*** The Government offers no explanation as to why it relied on its selected provisions of the INA, while ignoring other provisions of the same statute as well as other immigration laws. The INA was implemented with “the underlying intention of . . . preservation of the family unit.” The Government’s artificially narrow interpretation of close familial relationships directly contradicts this intention.

*** Resettlement agencies will face concrete harms and burdens if refugees with formal assurances are not admitted. In the same way that the Court considered the harms of the U.S. citizen who wants to be reunited with his mother-in-law and the permanent resident who wants to be reunited with his wife, the employer that hired an employee, the university that admitted a student, and the American audience that invited a lecturer, the district court correctly considered the resettlement agency that has given a formal assurance for specific refugees.

*** Refugees’ lives remain in vulnerable limbo during the pendency of the Supreme Court’s stay. Refugees have only a narrow window of time to complete their travel, as certain security and medical checks expire and must then be re-initiated. Even short delays may prolong a refugee’s admittance.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s decision is attached.

Oral arguments on the merits of the travel ban appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to occur on October 10, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Kailua Park Temporary Access — Route Change Begins Today to Accommodate Big Island Fair

The Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation will temporarily change the access route into Kailua Park, also known as Old Kona Airport Park, from Wednesday, September 6 through Tuesday, September 12, 2017, to accommodate the E.K. Fernandez Big Island Fair 2017.

During this period, vehicular traffic entering Kailua Park will be diverted to the beach access road located at the north end of Kuakini Highway.  The Department of Parks and Recreation reminds all motorists not to exceed the road’s five mile per hour speed limit, which will be in effect until normal traffic patterns are reinstated in the morning of Tuesday, September 12.

Signs will be posted to inform motorists of the routing change and affected dates.

The Department of Parks and Recreation thanks the public for its understanding while it implements the temporary routing change aimed at protecting park users, fair attendees and fair operators, who will be setting up and disassembling carnival rides.

For more information, please call the Department of Parks and Recreation at 961-8311.

Governor Ige Secures Additional $41 Million in Highway Federal Funding

Gov. David Ige announced today that the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT) Highways Division will receive an additional $41,149,572 in funding for its Federal-aid Highway Program through the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) Fiscal Year 2017 fund redistribution. Hawaiʻi’s share of the funding is the largest amongst states of similar size determined by number of lane miles.

With the additional money, Hawaiʻi will receive a total of $193 million in new highway funding this federal fiscal year from the Federal-aid Highway Program.

“When I took office, I promised to make better use of federal transportation funds, and I’m proud to report that the pipeline is now the lowest it’s been in 16 years,” said Gov. David Ige. “The HDOT team has cleared $245 million and put that money to work on highway improvements in our communities to improve the quality of life for Hawaiʻi’s residents. In two and a half years we have successfully reduced the pipeline from nearly $750 million to $505 million. I thank the HDOT team for its commitment to achieving the goal.”

“The fact that Hawaiʻi was able to receive additional federal money is a testament to all the hard work the HDOT staff has done to bring down the federal pipeline,” said Division Administrator Ralph Rizzo, of the Federal Highway Administration’s Hawaiʻi Division.

The pipeline, also known as the unexpended federal balance, is the difference between what is obligated for all projects and what we have expended and have been reimbursed for by the federal government. Every state carries an unexpended balance because of the reimbursement nature of the program and the time it takes to deliver projects.

We will continue to make positive progress in reducing the pipeline and are on our way to reaching the agreed upon goal of $450 million in FFY 2018. As of August 31, 2017 the pipeline was $505 million (the goal for the end of FFY 2017 was $525m).

The projects that will benefit from the additional funding are:

  • H-1 Freeway Eastbound Improvements
  • Kuhio Highway Resurfacing
  • Kuhio Highway Safety Improvements
  • Hawaiʻi County’s Mamalahoa Highway Project

[1] Federal-Aid Highway Program Obligation Limitation – Redistribution of Fiscal Year (FFY) 2017 Obligation Limitation (August Redistribution). FHWA Resources – Legislation, Regulations and Guidance. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/notices/n4520247.cfm

2 State & Urbanized Area Statistics. FHWA Office of Highway Policy Information. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/onh2p11.htm

Big Island Police Report on Honomu Incident

A 21-year old Kamuela woman died following a 2-vehicle crash Saturday afternoon (September 2), in Honomū.

Her name is being withheld pending positive identification and notification of her family.

Responding to a 1:57 p.m., call, police determined that a 2004 Honda sport-utility vehicle was traveling northbound on Highway 19, near the Honomū Transfer Station Road and crossed a center line and collided with a 2005 Peterbilt tanker truck that was traveling southbound.

The woman, who died, the front seat passenger in the sport-utility vehicle, was taken to the Hilo Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m.

The driver of the sport-utility vehicle, a 23-year old Kamuela man, and the rear seat passenger, a 3-year old child who was buckled up in a car seat, were treated for their injuries at the scene.

The driver of the Peterbilt, a 54-year old Hilo man, was transported to the Hilo Medical Center in stable condition for treatment of his injuries.

An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

Police do not believe that speed or alcohol were factors in this crash.

The roadway was closed due to a fuel leak from the tanker truck, and the roadway was reopened at approximately 10:30 a.m., Monday morning (September 4).

Police ask anyone who witnessed the crash to call Officer Casey Cabral at (808) 961-2329. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300.

This is the 26th traffic fatality this year compared with 17 at this time last year.

Hawaii Representative Responds on Why She Voted Yes With Reservations During Special Legislative Session


Hawaii Island Representative Joy SanBuenventura posted the following response on her Facebook page as to why she voted Yes (with reservations) on the recent controversial rail bill:

Representative Joy SanBuenaventura

“Why I voted Yes with Reservations: For the reason I voted no in 2015 because I did not like the rail fiasco, I don’t trust Caldwell’s numbers & the amendment to exempt neighbor island from TAT surcharge (which I voted for and spoke up for) overwhelmingly failed. The 2015 rail bill passed which led to the rock & hard place we are in now: If this current bill failed by 9/15, we would be stuck with an $800 million bill to fed govt (That’s why Hanabusa and Schatz stepped in when they stayed away previously – they saw that the leg was willing to let rail fail by our lack of agreement when 2017 session ended & our unwillingness to schedule a special session- the special session was scheduled at the last possible minute prior to 9/15 fed deadline & only after Hanabusa & Schatz stepped in). We no longer have Dan Inouye nor President Obama and our fed legislators keep speaking out against trump- so fed relationships needed to be retained with the day-to-day non-appointees who actually administer the fed grant $. Hanabusa & Schatz were concerned that if rail died, ALL our fed grants are subject to re-review. Half our highways our funded by feds, including Hwy 130. Someone needs to keep nagging DoT so that Hwy 130 doesn’t lose its place in the STIP and I didn’t want to give DoT another excuse not to fund 4-lanes (they already allowed the $15 mil for the alternate access to lapse & they already blame me for the failure of the gas tax they wanted in 2016 session). DoT was in every rail hearing even if sometimes they don’t testify.

The TAT was always a state tax created in 1986 to help the tourist industry create a convention center and to advertise Hawaii as a destination. In 1991 various grants were given to the counties so that they can promote their own tourism on their island. The big island gets 18.6% of the county share (at least 4% more than we are entitled to because Harvey Tajiri who was once finance chair juiced it) – with this county vs. state debate, a tracking-down of where the money is generated is going to occur and I suspect the big island will lose this advantage because our visitor count shows only 14% of visitor arrivals vs. statewide. The huge pressure to vote “no” has already cost the Big Island to lose statewide power when Cindy Evans lost her majority leadership position – so this huge pressure to vote “no” when the “yes” votes were going to win only led the big island to a worse bargaining position when state monies are used for grants and capital improvements. Most neighbor island reps supported the amendment making this an Oahu-only TAT but we were overwhelmingly outvoted – so the “yes” votes were going to win regardless.

The current bill was a compromise between the 2 chambers & the hotel/tourist industry – It was originally 2-3% of TAT. It was meant to export the tax to tourists after Caldwell’s testimony that tourists paid for most of it and Hanneman stating that 90-99% of hotels are rented to out-of -state residents. The original neighbor island tax referred to in Civil Beat was a statewide GE surcharge which option was soundly rejected by all. TAT is deductible by residents but GE is mostly deductible based upon income. Moreover, I felt this bill was a move towards a more equitable tax away from the regressive GE which is a tax on everything and is paid by everyone including those who cannot afford a hotelroom. Everyone was already paying the Oahu GE surcharge without knowing it because the GE is a tax on wholesale items and even on the tax itself that’s why its 4.1666666 not just 4%.

As to lack of notice: Unless there is a constitutional amendment for a year-long legislative session, this lack of notice will always be a problem because we have 60 days to parse through hundreds of bills and every year we asked for funding for neighbor island residents to testify, we lose. The rail bill like all bills had the 48-hour notice and in this case because there was a special session, it got even more notice than the other bills; and frankly, I called a certain councilperson when this bill was going through the transportation committee in the original session as to the county position before it got to the yes or no stage – but got no response back (I suspect she did not want to violate the sunshine law by just polling members & the mayor on interim positions before getting back to me). Again I remain committed to lessen the burden on local B-n-B’s caused by this bill by introducing a bill next session and I invite the local b-n-b’s to give me a proposed draft of such a bill.”

 

Statement From Hawaii Gas on Honomu Propane Tanker Accident

The fire on the propane tanker was extinguished at approximately 5:30 am, Monday. Hawaii Gas and fire officials at the scene on Saturday night had decided it was safer to let the fire burn off the remaining contents of the tanker.

Photo via Mari Casil Halsted

Police have finished their investigation at the scene. The tanker is being removed and the highway will be reopened shortly. (Editors note – It has now been reopened)

On Saturday, Sept 2, a Hawaii Gas propane tanker was struck by an SUV on Highway 19 near Honomu on the Hamakua coast. The impact flipped the tanker and caused the propane leak and fire.

The propane truck driver was taken to the Hilo Medical Center where he is hospitalized. Two of the three occupants in the SUV were treated at the scene but authorities confirmed that one of the passengers had died.

Hawaii Gas is partnering closely with the police and fire departments to complete their investigation as well as conducting an investigation of our own.

We are saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to those affected by this tragic accident.

4 Injured One Dead in Honomu Accident Involving Propane Truck

Location:

Found at Scene: on 9/2, a passenger vehicle collided head on with Gas Co tanker vehicle. Tanker upside down, with cab on fire; driver self extricated. Passenger vehicle with severe damage, 1 30’s female occupant pronounced dead at scene. 3 other passengers and Gas Co truck driver transported to HMC in various conditions.

Remarks:

Remarks: Approximately 1750 gallons of liquid propane on board tanker truck, which caught fire and was venting from the tank. Due to the large volume of liquid propane (1 gal of liquid propane = roughly 50 cu feet of propane gas at ambient scene temperatures), the fire is still burning as of this writing at 2200 hrs on 9/3: 32 hours now. The tank is being cooled by water applied by HFD personnel. The Gas Co is on scene, as well as HFD HazMat company.

Involved in the operation included:

Governor Commits $19.5 Million in Federal Funds for Māmalahoa Highway Project

The County of Hawai‘i is pleased to announce that Governor David Ige and the State Department of Transportation have committed $19.5 million in federal (STIP) funds for the Māmalahoa Highway widening project in Waimea.

Photo by Aaron Stene of a previous Mamalahoa Project.

The current cost of the project is approximately $25 million, and the grant of $19.5 million in Federal Highway Administration Funds will be matched with a required 20%, or approximately $5 million, to be contributed by the County.

This initiative is the result of a coordinated efforts between the Federal Highway Administration, State Department of Transportation, Department of Land and Natural Resources, the County of Hawai’i and other project agencies.

“This is such an important project to improve the traffic flow and safety of the area, not only for vehicles, but for pedestrians and bicyclists as well,” said Mayor Harry Kim.  “This would not have happened without the personal help of the State DOT’s Ed Sniffen and the Governor.”

Hawaii House Passes Rail Funding Bill in Special Session

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.”

House Transportation and Finance Committees Pass Rail Funding Bill

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

Senate Bill 4 Report Title:  County Surcharge on State Tax; Extension; Transient Accommodations Tax; Appropriations:

Authorizes a county that has adopted a surcharge on state tax to extend the surcharge to 12/31/2030. Authorizes a county to adopt a surcharge on state tax before 3/31/2018, under certain conditions. Decreases from 10% to 1% the surcharge gross proceeds retained by the State. Allows the director of finance to pay revenues derived from the county surcharge under certain conditions. Clarifies uses of surcharge revenues. Establishes a mass transit… (See bill for full description.)

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.

Senate Roll Call – Who Voted for What When It Came Down to the Rail

Today at the Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu, the Senate voted 16-9 in favor of moving Senate Bill 4 over to the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 4 Report Title:  County Surcharge on State Tax; Extension; Transient Accommodations Tax; Appropriations:

Authorizes a county that has adopted a surcharge on state tax to extend the surcharge to 12/31/2030. Authorizes a county to adopt a surcharge on state tax before 3/31/2018, under certain conditions. Decreases from 10% to 1% the surcharge gross proceeds retained by the State. Allows the director of finance to pay revenues derived from the county surcharge under certain conditions. Clarifies uses of surcharge revenues. Establishes a mass transit… (See bill for full description.)

Many folks were wondering who voted yes and no on moving this bill forward and I was able to obtain the following roll call sheet from today’s hearing and for what it’s worth… all four Big Island Senators voted against moving this bill forward:

Hawaii Senate Passes Rail Bill

Members of the Hawai‘i State Senate today passed Senate Bill 4 on third reading by a vote of 16-9 to provide funding to complete construction on the City and County of Honolulu’s rail transit project.

SB4 addresses the City and County of Honolulu’s rail construction shortfall of $2.378 billion by extending the General Excise Tax on Oahu for three additional years through December 31, 2030 which will provide $1.046 billion. It also raises the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) by one percent to 10.25 percent for 13 years, to December 31, 2030. This will provide $1.326 billion. SB4 permanently increases the counties’ share of the TAT from $93 million to $103 million. The measure reduces the State Department of Taxation’s administrative fee on the GET surcharge from 10 percent to one percent. The measure creates a Mass Transit Special Fund to review and disburse funds to the city for its costs on the rail project. It also requires a state run audit of the rail project and annual financial reviews.

SB4 now crosses over to the House for their consideration.

A complete schedule of the hearings can be viewed at www.capitol.hawaii.gov

Mayor Harry Kim Opposed to Permanent Cap on Counties’ Transient Accommodation Tax


Testimony by Harry Kim, Mayor, County of Hawai’i before Senate Ways & Means Re: SB 4:

The County of Hawai’i opposes the permanent cap on the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT). This cap is unnecessary to achieve all other aspects of the bill to finance Honolulu’s rail. The bill proposes to finance rail by extending the General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge period to 12/31/2030, increasing the share of the surcharge that goes to rail by decreasing the administrative charge retained by the State, and increasing the TAT rate by 1% and dedicating all of that increase to rail. There is no reason related to rail financing to cap the share of the TAT to the counties.

A cap on the counties’ TAT share is contrary to the Legislature’s own working group report and the original intent of the TAT tax summarized as follows:

  • Working Group Recommendation. The working group recommended the Tourism Special Fund receive $82 million in FY 2016 and increase in subsequent years in line with the Consumer Price Index for Honolulu, $31 million constant for the Convention Center-Turtle Bay-Special Land Develop Fund, and the remainder split between the State and counties at 55% for the State and 45% for the counties. Based on total TAT revenues in 2016 of $444 million, the $103,000,000 cap represents 31% of the remainder of the TAT after allocations to the Tourism Special Fund ($82 million) and the Convention Center-Turtle Bay-Special Land Development Fund ($33 million). As a result of the cap, the counties’ share will only get worse as tourism grows.
  • Nexus to Tourism Services. The incidence of the TAT is primarily on visitors, so the TAT tax revenues should fund public services which benefit visitors. The UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) estimated that the counties pay for 53% of the services for which visitors directly benefit (UHERO Working Paper No. 2016-4). These services include police and fire protection, rescue, parks, beaches, water, roads, and sewer systems.
  • Act 185 (1990). Recognizing that “many of the burdens imposed by tourism falls on the counties,” the legislature created the TAT as a “more equitable method of sharing state revenues with the counties” (Conference Committee Report 207 on HB No. 1148). The legislature deemed at that time that the fair allocation was 95% of the total TAT revenues to the counties.

The State has multiple sources of revenues. The counties only have property tax, motor vehicle weight tax, and public utility franchise tax. Our out-of-control homeless problems are a symptom of the soaring cost to rent or own a home in Hawai’i. And you want to offer us the power to increase the GET tax, the most regressive form of taxation that impacts the lower income the greatest. We already had to increase our property tax to make ends meet. With the collective bargaining decisions dominated by the State, we again will face possible increases. We ask only for our fair share as recommended by the Working Group, to maintain quality services that uphold the tourism industry and affordability for our people.

Hilo Man Steals City Bus AGAIN

Hawaiʻi Island police have arrested a 21-year-old Hilo man in connection with a stolen county bus.

Kawelo Nakamura

At 1:36 a.m., Monday morning (August 28), county employees reported that the lock on the gate to the County of Hawaiʻi Mass Transit base yard was cut and the gates were found opened. Reports received indicated that a 42-passenger bus was taken from the base yard and that may have been seen heading in the Hāmākua direction over the Wailuku Bridge on Highway 19 and later on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway near Mauna Lani.

At 6:24 a.m., police briefly pursued the bus after it was observed traveling into Hilo on Bayfront Highway, but the pursuit was discontinued in the interest of public safety. At 6:45 a.m., the bus was located behind the Walter Victor Stadium where the suspect, Kawelo Nakamura was taken into custody and transported to the Hilo cellblock while detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section continue the investigation.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any other information about it is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Todd Pataray of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2382 or Todd.Pataray@hawaiicounty.gov.

Editors note… this isn’t the first time he’s tried to steal a bus:  http://damontucker.com/2017/08/07/man-charged-in-connection-with-theft-of-county-mass-transit-bus/