Lingle backs off
tax push

She had proposed more
taxing powers for counties
to raise money for rail transit

Gov. Linda Lingle is backing away from her push to give the counties new taxation powers next year, an initiative that failed to gain support from her fellow Republicans.

In October, Lingle had said she would lobby the Legislature next year to allow counties to raise taxes. Such a move would allow Honolulu to raise money for mass transit projects, she said.

However, the governor told reporters yesterday that she doubted there is a need to give the counties permission to raise taxes next year, because planning for a transit system is at least four years away.

"There is no need for any amount of money at this time," Lingle said.

"As you know, the environmental planning process is a four-year process. There is no need for large amounts of money if it is just for transit," she said.

State Rep. Joe Souki (D, Waihee-Wailuku), House Transportation Committee chairman, agreed.

"She is correct. I don't think you need the tax measure this year," he said. "I think the next year can be used for planning, working out the things that need to be done.

"If you spec it out and it becomes feasible, then you can come back with a tax," said Souki, who noted he favors an eventual tax increase.

He had urged Lingle to go slow with a call for a tax increase because "it is going to take 10 years before you have rail," he said. "I don't think you have to hurry it."

Lingle said she still supports allowing all four counties to have their own taxing powers besides property tax adjustments.

Supporting any sort of tax increase has been a political minefield for Lingle, who has been opposed by leaders in her own party.

State Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) worried last month that the tax issue could cause the GOP to lose legislative races.

"There is a concern from individual Republicans that they would be hurt in next year's election," Slom said.

In October, Lingle said her administration would ask the Legislature next session for $1.25 million to pay for updates of environmental studies for a fixed-rail system and Nimitz Highway "flyover" lanes.

"I will go to the Legislature and ask them to give the counties authority to levy some level of tax to pay for transit," she said then.


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