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Lingle vows to veto hotel tax increase


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POSTED: Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle is adding the hotel room tax to the list of state taxes she does not want to see increased.

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Lingle, who said last month she would not approve increases to the state income tax or general excise tax, said yesterday if the Legislature raises the state's hotel room tax, she will veto it.

At a news conference yesterday, Lingle noted that the Legislature was readying various forms of tax increases to deal with the budget and she would oppose many of them.

“;The Legislature continues on its track to raise taxes for everyone in the state,”; Lingle said. “;If they pass a tax increase that requires me to sign it and there are general tax increases, I will have to veto them and then their budget won't be balanced and that will cause us to have to come together.”;

In previous interviews, House Speaker Calvin Say has said he is not sure he would call for an override of a Lingle tax bill veto. In terms of strategy, Say said he might allow the veto to stand and challenge her to balance the budget alone.

Asked if he would call for an override, Say said, “;We may, we may not.”;

In an interview last week, Say said, “;We have to see how she balances the budget. You go find the money. I will just throw it back to her.”;

Yesterday Lingle called any proposal to raise the hotel room tax—also called the transit accommodations tax—“;a very bad idea.”;

“;We have fewer visitors and we are trying to sell value. To raise taxes on visitors would send the opposite message,”; Lingle said.

Previously Lingle has said she didn't want to discuss tax increases and had “;taken them off the table,”; but yesterday she was threatening a veto. Asked about the more forceful tone, Lingle said the Legislature should understand the state “;is in a crisis situation.”;

The way out of the budget shortfall, now estimated at almost $2 billion for the next two years, is to cut state worker salaries, Lingle said.

Lingle said previously she would propose a combination of pay cuts and reductions in medical benefit payments to state workers, but said yesterday she was rethinking the proposal.

“;The only way to get the level of savings we need is that every employee take some reductions for the next several years. To adopt a budget that does not recognize some labor savings is ignoring reality,”; Lingle said.

In a meeting with the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week, Lingle said the Legislature should just subtract $278 million from the state budget and expect her administration to extract that much in state labor reductions.

If she were not able to get those cuts from labor negotiations, Lingle told the lawmakers that she would take responsibility for cutting the budget.