Hawaii County Council rejects proposal to raise general excise tax

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A bill that would have raised the general excise tax on Hawaii island has died.

The Hawaii County Council voted against the measure five to four.

Bill 159 proposed a quarter-percent increase in the GET that would have raised money for transportation improvements, mass transit, sidewalks and trails. It would have also helped pay for the costs associated with the volcanic emergency.

The county was already in a hole, and without this extra funding, Hawaii County managing director Wil Okabe says there will be cuts, “maybe freezing positions that are not filled right now. We might have to look at freezing other positions, future positions, until we can get a handle on this budget.”

Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, who represents East Puna, voted against the measure.

“I just am very concerned that we are in a very, very poor fiscal point, and there’s really no reason for it,” she said. “The economy, nationally and even in the state, is going well, unemployment very low, and yet somehow restricting and applying this fiscal austerity is seen by many as a way to handle the problem, but it just exacerbates the problem. It just makes, ensures that the Big Island will be the poverty center of the state, and I’m really, really sorry about that thinking, because I’m really reluctant to vote for this today.”

Okabe says they won’t be cutting anything that involves the health and safety of the community.

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