County Councils’ proposals
seek to expand their taxing power

Giving the counties the ability to generate revenues beyond property taxes is at the heart of a package of proposals the County Councils plan to take to the state Legislature during the upcoming session.

Among its proposals, the Hawaii State Association of Counties will push legislation authorizing counties to establish a general excise tax. The group is also seeking a share of fines from traffic and parking citations.

The main source of revenues for all four counties is property taxes. Establishing a county-level excise tax would be more equitable, the counties argue, because a broader segment of residents and visitors -- not just property owners -- would pay.

On Oahu such a tax has been discussed as a way to finance a planned rail transit system.

Traffic fines have long been a sore spot with the counties because they do not receive revenues, yet county police officers enforce the traffic laws.

The association would like a percentage of fines from uncontested citations to be turned over to the counties, a move supported by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Other county legislative proposals include:

>> Authorization to raise the highway beautification fee to $10 from $5. The fee is used for the removal of abandoned vehicles. The counties said the number of abandoned vehicles is on the rise, and so are disposal costs.

>> Allowing the counties to collect an additional fee for issuing a driver's license to a person convicted of driving under the influence of liquor and drugs. The fee is seen as a deterrent and aimed at getting DUI offenders to pay their share of costs incurred by police departments stemming from these offenses.


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