Your Views for January 31

Regarding GET hike

I am writing in response to a recent letter to the editor regarding a misunderstanding of my position on raising the general excise tax, or GET.

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As a former Hawaii County mayor, I am deeply concerned about the hardship to families caused by even the slightest raise in taxes. And, I am also aware of the harmful effect any loss of transient accommodation tax, TAT, has on our island’s budget.

Having said this, I would like to clarify my position. The letter referenced a Jan. 21 West Hawaii Today article, which quoted me as saying “they asked us to help them and my suggestion is to go ahead and raise taxes.” Please know that this comment was taken out of context.

Mayor Harry Kim provided testimony to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, during a recent county budget hearing, that he was anticipating a huge budget shortfall for Hawaii County. He stated, “It was very clear that what I had to do as an elected official, the one thing we hate to do, and that is to raise taxes.”

I am in total agreement with Mayor Kim that I, too, am reluctant to raise taxes, but in order to balance the county’s budget, I suggested that the mayor and council consider other options since Hawaii County already raised its real property tax rate.

The only real option is looking at the GET, and the Legislature, in approving the continuation of Oahu’s tax increase to fund rail, provided the counties with a vehicle to do this.

I also would like to make it very clear that the reason I was so vehemently opposed to any Neighbor Island TAT being used to fund Oahu’s rail system was to avoid the probability of the county being forced to raise the GET.

I was one of the first legislators to object to the use of Neighbor Island TAT revenue to fund Oahu’s rail system. Not only did I vote “No,” but I influenced other Neighbor Island senators and representatives to do the same when it came to a vote.

I have no say over whether a GET increase will be implemented in our county. That’s a matter for discussion between the mayor and the County Council. But I will do everything I can to support our island’s economy, increase the minimum wage and protect health care services and access to help residents weather these financially difficult times.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify my position on the general excise and transient accommodation tax issues. I thank the many constituents who spoke out against raiding the TAT for rail.

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Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye

Hawaii State Senate, District 4