Error gives
rail tax bill
ticket to ride

Some Democrats say that
Gov. Lingle's typos could
cause that bill and four
others to become law

The fate of a bill to raise the general excise tax for Honolulu mass transit grew more uncertain yesterday after a typo was discovered in a veto message sent by Gov. Linda Lingle.

State of Hawaii Just as Lingle was telling legislators that they must amend the tax bill to allow the counties to handle all tax collection, lawmakers discovered her veto notifications were flawed with wrong bill numbers, meaning that the tax bill may become law anyway.

Monday was the deadline for Lingle to send the Legislature formal notification of the bills she intends to veto.

But the typos in five veto messages raise the question that the veto notifications are invalid and the five bills, including the transit tax increase, will become law.

A spokesman for Lingle, however, says the Attorney General's Office finds that while the veto notifications contained a single typo, the correct bill numbers are mentioned in other places, so the intent is clear.

"It doesn't impact the validity of the veto. Clearly, the intent was there," Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior adviser for communications, said.

Several state legislators, who asked not to be named, said the mistakes raise the possibility that the Legislature was not properly notified of the governor's intent to veto.

"If that is correct, then the bill will become law," one Senate Democrat said.

According to the state Constitution, Lingle must give 10 days' notice of the bills she intends to return.

After discovering the error, Lingle yesterday afternoon sent out five "supplemental proclamations," stating that it would "amend that proclamation dated June 27."

Before the supplemental proclamations were issued, Lingle was calling for a change in the bills, saying she would not accept simple promises from the Legislature to amend the bill.

"From the beginning, we made it clear that the counties will benefit from getting the revenue from this tax and they should be the ones who collect it," Lingle said in an interview yesterday.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann says he likes the way the bill, House Bill 1309, is written now and doesn't want it changed. He says the city does not have workers in place to collect the surcharge. The cost to the city would be at least $50 million, and it would take a minimum of six years to get such a tax collection system up and running, which would mean lost time in revenue collection, according to Hannemann.

"I hope she would just let the bill become law without her signature," Hannemann said yesterday.

Hannemann said Lingle should offer some alternatives to improve Honolulu's congested freeways if she vetoes the bill.

"For so many people, this is their only transportation option. I hope she has a more palatable alternative," Hannemann said.

Lingle, however, says it should be up to the city to get the money.

"If he (Hannemann) wants to realize the revenues, then he needs to set up and start collecting that tax. It is clearly a home rule issue and that means they should be the ones assessing it," Lingle said.

To do that the Legislature would have to change the law. Lingle said if she doesn't get a promise in writing to change the law, she will follow through on her threat to veto the bill.

"Just being willing to talk about it in 2006 would not be enough. I want them to make a public commitment that they will make this change," Lingle said.

"They have to say so in writing and it has to be public," Lingle said. "It they don't make this change, I couldn't support this bill as it stands."

But even strong supporters of the transit tax bill, such as Sen. Willie Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei-Ewa Beach) won't promise specific results.

"The Senate president and the House speaker can't speak for all the members," Espero said.

"I don't think anyone is in position to promise that a bill will look any particular way by some specific time.

"We will work hard to accommodate her request because we who support rail want this to happen, but to (force a) promise is not the appropriate way of forcing us to do what she dictates," Espero said.


Vetoes and typos

List of bills -- ones with the wrong bill numbers listed in previous veto notifications -- with supplemental veto messages:

HB 1715, which would prohibit discrimination in real property transactions on the basis of sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression.
HB 1309, which increases the general excise tax to build a mass transit system.
HB 1556, which authorizes $25 million in special revenue bonds to build Kona coffee and macadamia nut processing plant.
HB 1548, which would change the method of selecting members of the Employer Union Health Benefits Trust Fund board.
SB 813, which restricts use of federal funds for workforce development.

Office of the Governor

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