The Big Lie About ‘Home Rule’

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - June 30, 2005

The deadline for Gov, Linda Lingle to veto HB1309 is looming, and by the time you read this she will have transmitted her veto intentions to the legislature. I am hopeful she will veto the measure, but I think she will allow it to pass without signature.


Although the governor has issues with some of the bill’s provisions, she is ardently supportive of counties deciding their own fiscal policies.

But is this truly a “home rule” issue as the governor maintains?

It depends on your definition. Gov. Lingle has a history of service in municipal government, both as Maui councilmember and mayor. I am certain there were periods of frustration when she needed to arrive at decisons or execute policies which required state input or approval pertaining to city/county issues. Therefore, the governor’s desire to allow counties to decide if they want to raise taxes should be their decision, either way. That’s understandable.

But HB1309 does not provide for true home rule because there are conditions attatched to the bill which allows the state to ingratiate itself into city affairs. The first condition is that Maui, Hawaii and Kauai counties may institute an increase in the state General Excise Tax and use the funds for any transportation project they choose. But the City and County of Honolulu is relegated to using the money only for a rail transit project.

If true home rule existed, then each county would be able to collect the tax and use the cash any way they see fit. If Maui wanted to subsidize affordable housing projects, they could. If The Big Island wanted to beautify the Hilo Muni Golf Course, they could. If Kauai wanted to dredge the Waialua River, why not? That means if Honolulu decided to increase the GET and dedicate all those monies to police and fire departments, we could. But this is not the case — so this is not home rule.

The fact that HB1309 calls for the state to administer the tax increase is an obvious violation of home rule. There are other examples of state-originated tax which is administered by the counties. Why should this tax be any different? HB1309 allows the state to retain 10 percent of collected GET to defray “administration costs”. You gotta be kidding me. The estimated annual take of a .5 percent hike in the GET on Oahu is about $16 million. That means the state would be entitled to about $16 million. Where does all that money go?

Lastly, why is there so much secrecy surrounding this project. State Rep. Mark Moses called my radio program a few weeks ago and claimed there are indeed plans for the rail system, but government has not released them. He says he has seen them. Why haven’t we? A recent panel discussion coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce did not allow radio or television coverage of the event. Why? And a Chamber board member was willing to record the program and make it available online and he was shot down. What does the Chamber have to hide?

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