LBA hears about tax proposal

LIHUE — If Kauai County does not approve a proposed half-percent general excise tax increase, other options include increasing vehicle weight tax, fuel tax and real property tax.

That’s what Ken Shimonishi, Kauai County director of finance, said during a presentation before the Lihue Business Association Thursday morning at Duke’s restaurant.

The GET surcharge would generate around $250 million over 10 years for roads, bridges, maintenance vehicles, equipment and the bus system.

Those projects were chosen because Kauai residents and visitors alike cited traffic and hazardous roads as concerns, Shimonishi said.

Improving public transportation is a priority because it will reduce the number of people driving cars, helping to alleviate congestion, said Lee Steinmetz, county transportation planner.

“Every time there’s an investment in transit service, we’ve had a significant increase in ridership,” he said.

If the GET is approved by the county council, the county will need to hire four contract manager engineers for the Public Works Department, Shimonishi said. It would also hire about 25 more bus drivers.

Stephen Long, owner of Kauai Architect-Stephen W. Long Associates, said another option is to increase fees for building and zoning permits and imposing a development impact fee.

The state GET is 4 percent.

In 2015, the state Legislature granted counties the right to establish a one-half percent surcharge on the GET. Counties have until July 1 to enact an ordinance that would increase the tax from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2027.

The proposal will be discussed by the county at committee level on Wednesday.

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