There have been many concerns raised about the 1 percent statewide increase in the Transient Accommodation Tax to pay for a rail system that primarily benefits Oahu residents. Some Kauai residents are not happy that TAT taxes paid by visitors on our island will be used for the needs of another island. Some residents believe that all taxes paid on Kauai should stay on Kauai. As Kauai representatives, we believe this is a dangerous position to take and we’d like to explain why.
First of all, Kauai receives more revenues from the State of Hawaii than we generate in taxes. With respect to the TAT, by law, we receive 14.5 percent of the statewide TAT county allocation when our actual visitor days are only 11.4 percent, based on 2015 data. Kauai has been receiving a disproportionately higher share of the TAT than we generate from the inception of the TAT in 1987.
Secondly, Kauai receives more state revenues than it generates in the areas of highway, harbor, Kauai Veterans Memorial and Mahelona hospitals, public education, human services, and health. In other words, the state of Hawaii subsidizes operations in all of these areas beyond the taxes that are raised by Kauai residents, businesses, and visitors via income taxes, vehicle weight taxes, fuel taxes, harbor fees, and general excise taxes.
Thirdly, and most importantly, as state legislators, we must balance the need to provide basic services such as public education, human services, and access to health care to every resident in the state while addressing special needs as they arise.
When Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai, a disproportionate amount of state resources were funneled to our island to deal with the disaster and recovery. When Hawaii island experienced threatening invasive species and an onslaught of natural disasters, the state came through with funding. And when Maui privatized their health care system recently, significant resources were allocated to make the conversion work.
The use of the TAT, paid by our visitors, helps to complete the rail system to Ala Moana Center and saves the State of Hawaii $1 billion in financing fees over a 13-year period. It would be irresponsible not to support this proposal.
Rep. Nadine K. Nakamura can be reached at 586-8435 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Dee Morikawa can be reached at 586-6280 email@example.com