Raise in land-care
funding sought

The plan would hike the conveyance
tax to four times its current rate

A coalition of cultural and environmental organizations is asking state lawmakers to quadruple the conveyance tax to provide more money to manage lands that are part of Hawaii's Natural Area Reserves System.

The proposal (House Bill 452 and Senate Bill 919) is part of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs legislative package. Other members of the coalition include Clean Elections Hawaii, Conservation Council for Hawaii, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Kahea the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Life of the Land Hawaii, Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and Rocky Mountain Institute.

One-fourth of state conveyance tax collections goes into the Natural Area Reserves Fund to help private landowners manage their properties within the reserves. Another fourth goes into the state Rental Housing Trust Fund, and the rest goes into the state treasury.

"Turns out that the conveyance tax that's being used for this, particularly in this boom period, is the lowest in the nation," said Mark Glick, OHA's director of board services.

Even if lawmakers agreed to double the tax on real estate transactions to 20 cents per $100 of valuation, Hawaii's conveyance tax would still be the lowest in the country, Glick said. Raising it to 40 cents per $100 of valuation would put Hawaii in the lower half among all states, he said.

Lawmakers have yet to schedule hearings for the bills. However, another of the coalition's proposals is moving in the Legislature.

The measure (HB 1308 and SB 1897) would create a land conservation fund and direct half of the state treasury's share of the conveyance tax into the conservation fund to purchase critical lands for protection from development.

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