State of Hawaii

Visitor environmental
tax proposed

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> The chairman of a group fighting harmful alien plants and animals on Maui is asking Gov. Linda Lingle and state lawmakers to consider imposing an environmental tax on tourists.

The revenues would go toward lessening the effects of tourism on the environment, said Randy Bartlett of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

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He added that he is not accusing visitors of bringing in alien species but that they should share the responsibility of maintaining the environment.

Bartlett, who sent the call for the tax in an e-mail to Lingle and state Senate and House leaders yesterday, said Ecuador and Spain have imposed such a tax in the past few years. He said the state might consider doing the same before killing "the nene goose that lays the golden eggs" of Hawaii's economy.

The Maui Invasive Species Committee is made up of government and private industry representatives who have joined to fight alien species adversely affecting Maui's native rain forest and watershed.

Bartlett cited a state Legislative Reference Bureau report, noting the cost to fund programs aimed at preventing the introduction and establishment of invasive alien species in Hawaii is just under $50 million annually.

"I'm saying this is the need and this is how much it costs now because we're not taking care of the needs," he said.

Bartlett said that according to the same legislative study, Hawaii's economy loses nearly $500 million annually from damage or mitigation costs to property due to termites and from lost agricultural exports.

Bartlett said state lawmakers currently allocate less than 1 percent of the entire state budget to manage, preserve and protect all state lands and marine natural resources.

He said that while the county has provided $400,000 annually for his committee's program efforts, state legislators have funded only about $400,000 yearly for fighting invasive species statewide.

Lingle, Senate President Robert Bunda and House Speaker Calvin Say were unavailable for comment.

Maui Invasive Species Committee

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