Tax cuts stall in committee

LIHUE – Two bills aimed at reducing the county fuel and vehicle weight taxes were killed at the county committee this week.

The bills, first introduced by Councilmember Derek Kawakami, late last year, would have reduced the fuel tax from 17 cents per gallon to 13 cents per gallon, and the vehicle weight tax to 1 cent per pound.

If the bills, aimed to provide some relief to local residents who rely on vehicles to get to and from work, had passed, they would have come into effect beginning in Jan. 2019, when the half percent increase of the General Excise Tax will be enacted.

All members present at the meeting, voted to kill bills 2679 and 2680, including Kawakami.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo said as people get away from gas vehicles, it’s going to generate less money for the county, so the county’s going to have to make a decision to make sure that the revenue stays neutral.

That means, he said, unfortunately, the county may have to look at increasing vehicle weight taxes or fuel tax.

“I couldn’t support lowering those taxes because it’s going to compound the effect of reducing revenues because of the weights being less and again, people driving non-fuel cars or hybrids that they’re paying less at the pump or filling up less,” Rapozo said.

Though it’s not a popular thing, Rapozo said the county is going to have to take a serious look at putting the burden of repairing the roads and infrastructure on the people who are causing the issues, which are the cars and the trucks.

“I don’t think people without cars should be forced to pay. It would be like raising property taxes to generate revenue and lowering the golf course fees,” Rapozo said. “Everybody’s going to pay into a fund, but not everyone’s going to benefit. That’s how I look at it.”

Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said he was torn about voting on the fuel tax reduction bill, but he voted in favor of it to eliminate the “no funding” excuse for the next mayor when it comes to fixing the county’s infrastructure.

“It’s what the people want. People want the roads that are in bad shape to be fixed, the bridges that are in bad shape to be fixed. The next mayor will have funds available,” Kagawa said, commending the administration on being persistent in this proposal.

Kawakami said he is thankful for people who drive electric cars and that we’re moving to more sustainable modes of transportation, but they’re (those utilizing these vehicles), not paying their fair share of the infrastructure.

“Who does that hurt, who does that punish the most? That punishes people that are out on the Westside who have to drive into Lihue, more than anybody else,” Kawakami said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know these two declining sources of revenue need to be addressed.”

The county, Kawakami said in an interview with TGI, is too dependent on the fuel and vehicle weight tax as a form of revenue. He said they need to be looking at other forms of revenue.

Though he proposed the bills, Kawakami said he voted along with the other members of the council to kill them, because he doesn’t mind the legal process, which is an educational one for everyone, including himself.

“Part of the job of being a councilmember is to bring forth robust conversations,” Kawakami said.

Councilmembers Arthur Brun and JoAnn Yukimura were excused from Wednesday’s meeting.

  1. billyjoebob February 2, 2018 5:21 am Reply

    For the vehicles that don’t use pumped fuel they should be charged a formula of weight over mileage. I don’t really think it would be that difficult to come up with a formula whereas everyone that uses the roads pays for the roads fairly.

  2. gordon oswald February 2, 2018 7:54 am Reply

    The logic is somewhat confusing? People who don’t have cars don’t use the roads so they don’t pay into the tax pool? Hmm….it seems odd that if one needs an ambulance, rides the bus, has relatives with cars moving them around they indeed use the roads. The garbage truck they rely on uses the roads! Am I missing something?

    1. Mel Rapozo February 2, 2018 12:06 pm Reply

      Mr. Oswald, when you use the ambulance, bus, and trash pickup, you are charged a fee. These services are not free to the user. I don’t understand your logic.

  3. gordon oswald February 2, 2018 8:01 am Reply

    And Mr. Ropozo. Perhaps a better example for you is the property tax! Every owner, and even renter, pays into the property tax. The property tax money portion that goes to our schools and other “family” programs on the island is unfair according to your logic. Why should anyone on Kauai pay a tax that benefits other peoples school children when they don’t have any children themselves? Cut the taxes across the board, work on better more efficient government, and let the free market wipe up the mess that your bloated “government” is creating.

    1. Mel Rapozo February 2, 2018 12:04 pm Reply

      Mr. Oswald, the County property tax does not pay for schools. Anyway, you missed my point. As revenues from our fuel tax and vehicle weight tax drop, I believe that it would be unwise to further increase the shortfall by lowering those taxes.

  4. RG DeSoto February 2, 2018 8:46 am Reply

    What, never heard of cutting spending? Guess not better just to keep hosing the taxpayers…aka milk cows.
    RG DeSoto

  5. steve ball February 2, 2018 9:09 am Reply

    Hello Mel Repozo, even if someone on Kauai does not drive, they still derive a huge “benefit” from having good road infrastructure. Everything they purchase moves from the port to the stores on roads.
    They “benefit” when someone drives them to a doctors visit, etc.

  6. Steve Martin February 2, 2018 9:42 am Reply

    Mel Rapozo another councilman with no creativity. You are right Mell if people move to gasless vehicles as you think, then why not make up what they are not paying at the pumps on their registrations instead? I’m sure this can be noted on all electric vehicles that people register. I’m sorry, if simple solutions like this you don’t see I can’t possibly see how you can be a Mayor.

  7. Steve Martin February 2, 2018 9:53 am Reply

    I’m sorry, this whole article is another example of why our “popularity contest” of voting council members needs to be changed to hiring professional management people to implement the right solutions to our issues and needs. just when are we the citizens going to wake up and stop kicking the cans as well?

  8. Sunrise_blue February 2, 2018 2:32 pm Reply

    And that would mean that certain things have not changed. A 9.4 million tourist arrivals in 2017, generated some revenue. Since we live in Hawai’i and not Nevada, the revenues are limited. What “methods” have the county sought out to implement over the existing infrustructure limits, that would better regulate our economy? In other words, is there an “interface” implementation at the public level? How can we access these “methods”?

  9. Sunrise_blue February 2, 2018 3:24 pm Reply

    Some of your political methods to raise taxes are termed, “protected”. Not accessible or public outside of its playing arena or package. Short, useless bills or signings. Cannot be applied outside of its designated package. “Robust”.

  10. Sunrise_blue February 2, 2018 3:41 pm Reply

    “Robust”. It is not always necessary to use a “main” method. In such cases, the variables are wide and many. A larger plan is needed. More funds. Like now. GET funds.

  11. Sunrise_blue February 2, 2018 3:53 pm Reply

    Basically, your county council are lame duck from the get go. “Protected” & I have no idea why.


  12. WestKauai February 2, 2018 4:07 pm Reply

    Electric vehicles generally weigh more than gas vehicles due to the heavy battery packs. Therefore, a weight tax is equitable. Per Glen Mickens recent article, only a small portion the funds from the weight and fuel taxes are currently being used for road repairs, yet this same County Council has approved an excise tax increase to pay for those repairs. The excise tax will be paid by ALL of the public, whether they drive or not. It seems the Council changes views with the wind…

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