House leader refuses to allow counties to impose sales tax


POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010

Speaker of the House Calvin Say is rejecting calls to allow the counties to charge a sales tax to make up for lost revenue.

Speaking to reporters after the opening session of the state Legislature yesterday, Say cautioned that the current $1.2 billion state treasury shortfall means further cuts.

“;It's going to be a tough one because nobody wants to give. Everybody wants to protect what they already have,”; Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) said.

Gov. Linda Lingle wants to balance the budget by taking the yearly $83 million hotel room tax money now going to the counties.

Last year, the Senate proposed a new tax, a sales tax that the counties could charge.

“;No, that's not part of the House's position at this point in time,”; Say said.

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The 2010 legislative session kicked off with the state budget emerging as one of the key issues this year.

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“;They could find it in other ways because they had a lot of savings this year,”; Say said, noting that the counties, unlike the state, did not lay off or furlough workers this year. “;If you want more or better public services or facilities, be prepared to pay for them.

“;Conversely, if you do not want to pay more taxes or fees, be prepared to receive less public services,”; Say warned in his opening-day speech.

For her part, Lingle watched the subdued opening of the Legislature from the Senate chamber and said she wants legislators to come up with new ideas such as the ones she will give in her State of the State speech Monday.

“;I would like to hear more about job creation. That is what my State of the State will be about,”; Lingle said in an interview. “;We need to really look at job creation. We need to talk about the future of job creation, energy independence. I will have a very robust set of proposals.”;

The Republican governor, who is concluding eight years leading the state, said her budget already balances the state budget and added that the Legislature should tackle more issues.

“;I think the budget issue is an obvious one, but we have already submitted a plan to balance the budget. I think that is a good starting point for them. They have a clear set of options; they need to make some decisions,”; Lingle said.

But Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said since Lingle planned her budget, state revenues have fallen again and she thinks there will be more questions.

“;There is no way you can say it is not an issue, just because she has punted it to us,”; Hanabusa said.

Yesterday, Hanabusa explained that the budget worries mean this will not be a year of expansion.

“;Now is not the time to celebrate. Now is the time to work ... confronting the inescapable reality that we must trim expenses and balance our budget again,”; Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said.

The GOP legislative minority aimed their comments yesterday at fears that Democrats would balance the budget with tax increases.

“;Rather than cancel our celebration, we should pledge that we will not raise taxes,”; said Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai).