Council overrides
tax bill veto

Harris criticizes the move,
saying the measure is illegal and
will not give farmers desired relief

City Council members are giving farmers false hope that they would get temporary tax relief through a veto override, Mayor Jeremy Harris said.

City & County of Honolulu The mayor said that when the Council overrode his veto of Bill 35 yesterday, it was misleading farmers to think the tax relief measure "was applicable to them and implementable, and I think that's irresponsible."

Harris said he will ignore the legislation because city lawyers have deemed it illegal and unenforceable.

"Bill 35 is irrelevant," he said.

The Council voted 7-2 to override Harris' veto. The bill would mandate tax reductions for farmers and agricultural landowners.

Councilmembers Gary Okino and Barbara Marshall voted against the override. "I do believe that this was a bad bill and it was illegal," Marshall said. "I just don't want to give false hopes. I don't think Bill 35 is going to help."

But Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said Bill 35 is the only way left to help farmers at this point.

"We want to help agricultural industry, and that is why the only choice we have right today is Bill 35," Kobayashi said. "What else can we do today to prevent these farmers from going out of business?"

Farmers and their supporters testified at yesterday's special meeting that they needed relief from tax bills that have gone up severalfold from last year's.

Many carried signs that blamed their tax woes on Duke Bainum, former city councilman and current mayoral candidate, who authored a 2002 ordinance intended to go after so-called gentlemen farmers, who do not farm on their agricultural land.

Okino said that the problem is not with Bainum's legislation, but with agricultural landowners not dedicating their property to agriculture. Marshall said faulty assessments are also to blame.

The issue has become a hot topic in the mayoral campaign, with Bainum's main challenger, Mufi Hannemann, being endorsed by the Oahu Farm Bureau and criticizing Bainum's legislation.

The Council also approved a resolution yesterday to form a task force to help come up with a long-term solution to the farmers' agricultural tax concerns. The task force is slated to submit a final report to the Council by Sept. 15.

Harris said the debate over Bill 35 was unnecessary because there are already methods on the books for farmers to appeal their assessments or to seek a compromise to reduce taxes.

Harris said that so far there have been about 300 agricultural tax appeals that have been resolved, with 178 more to go. He also said 90 compromise applications have been worked on, with 50 remaining.



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