Hawaii County

Big Isle Council
kills hike of gas tax

HILO >> A committee of the Hawaii County Council yesterday killed Mayor Harry Kim's proposal to raise the county gasoline tax by six cents a gallon.

Technically, the Finance Committee of the Council approved 6-3 an unusual procedural motion to "postpone indefinitely" a resolution authorizing the increase.

"It's dead," county Managing Director Dixie Kaetsu said.

Kim had sought the increase from the current 8.8-cents-a-gallon tax because the county is falling behind in paving roads, repairing guardrails, cleaning flood channels, fixing traffic lights and doing shoulder work, he said.

Four cents of the increase would have been used for those purposes, while two cents would have been used to improve county bus service, thereby supposedly keeping additional cars off the roads.

Councilman Aaron Chung was the sole voice giving the proposal any support, saying he favored the two cents for buses because he wanted to discourage more cars.

Kim said he had hoped the council would at least discuss what the effects on road maintenance would be if the tax were raised one or two cents. They didn't do that.

A key point in the discussion was whether road paving could be done more efficiently by private contractors. Kim disputed that, citing the federal Davis-Bacon law which, in effect, requires contractors that do government work to pay union-scale wages.

County workers are also unionized, but private employees earn far more, up to three times as much as county employees for the same work, he said.

The last increase in the fuel tax was 3.8 cents a gallon in 1988, Kaetsu said. The county will continue to use that money for road paving, Kim said.

"After two years of work, I'm disappointed," Kim said. "I really believe the community wants us to do a better job."


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