Saturday, February 9, 2002

Legislature 2002

Senate committee approves
measure to create burial fee

The bill also raises the current
disinterment fee to $20 from $5

By Crystal Kua

Death and taxes are one step closer to being even more of a sure thing.

"They have a found a new way that the two things are inevitable," said Lowell Kalapa of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii.

The Senate Health Committee yesterday didn't have any grave concerns about a bill charging a new $20 fee to bury someone and raising the current fee to dig 'em up to $20 from $5.

The committee kept the measure alive, passing it on to the Ways and Means Committee.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson, who testified in favor of the bill, SB 2761, said the interment and burial-transit fees, half of which will be deposited into a special fund, will generate an estimated $90,000 to $100,000 a year that will be used to set up an online process to record deaths.

The current paper filing system is a long and cumbersome process, Anderson said.

"Right now it takes a long time to get death certificates," he said.

Mortuaries need a burial-transit permit before they can bury, cremate or dispose of remains. A death certificate is issued once the death registration paperwork is filed with the Health Department.

In his written testimony, Anderson said efficiency will be improved with an Internet-based system. Burial-transit permits could be issued electronically, death records could be processed more quickly, and death certificates could be issued in a more timely fashion.

Anderson told lawmakers that the current disinterment fee is insufficient to cover the cost of automation, and the amount of the proposed new fees is consistent with what other states are charging.

But Kalapa is not succumbing to the logic of the bill.

"If there's no direct correlation between the beneficiary, which is the dead person, and the service provided, it's not going to bear enough fruit," Kalapa said after the hearing.

He said the fee is another way of raising taxes without calling it a tax.

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