Senate passes bill to increase GE tax half percent

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The push to increase the state’s general excise tax to fund education continues at the State Capitol. The full senate voted and passed the bill Tuesday.

Increasing the GE tax .5% could potentially raise more than $350 million for the DOE and University of Hawaii according to Senator Taniguchi, who introduced the proposal. 

Though everyone agrees more money should be put into Hawaii’s school system, those opposed to the bill, say this isn’t the way.

“It really is a backbreaker,” Senator Gil Riviere said. Riviere is one of two senators who voted against the bill. “If we’re going to continue to increase the general excise tax on everything that we buy and spend. It’s just going to make the cost of living that much harder for everybody…If we’re going to make education a priority let’s make it a priority and let’s use the money we have now in the budget to realize the priorities that we believe in.”

The bill now moves onto the House of Representatives for a vote.

“School financing is a difficult question,” Representative Della Au Belatti said. Belatti is the House majority leader. “It is a question that we’re all struggling with how do we pay for all of the needs that we have in the state. So, certainly, a bill that comes up about this will be considered, but it has to go through the entire legislative process once again on the House side.”

Representative Gene Ward is predicting the proposal will fizzle out.

“It looks like a tax that we’re going to run away from,” Ward said.

Ward’s main concern is that people are already struggling to make ends meet.

“We don’t need more taxation. The cost of living is really, really punitive especially when you mention the GE tax. It’s really aggressive, which means the poor people pay more…I’ll be very honest with you, I don’t think it’s going to pass. I don’t think it’s a good policy to be doing that,” Ward said.

Belatti said the bill crossed over to the House today but will likely take several weeks before it is seen.

“It likely will have a double or even multiple referrals so this is a kind of bill that will likely have to go to conference and continue to draw serious discussion and consideration as members way all of the priorities of the state,” Belatti explained.

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