City's rail rendering

BY BOBBIE AND CLIFF SLATER – I’m sure you have heard that the city has announced that they have received permission to enter “Final Design”, and the city is alluding to a more optimistic outlook for federal funding. The Honolulu Star Advertiser headline was,“Rail project cleared for federal funding.”

However, that headline was plain wrong. You had to read further on in the Star Advertiser to find out what the federal government was really saying.

“[FTA Administrator} Rogers noted the city’s current financial plan proposes several ways the city might raise additional money if construction costs escalate unexpectedly or if the anticipated local or federal funding does not materialize.

“For example, the city suggested in its September financial plan that it might seek state approval to extend the half-percent excise tax to help cover any shortfall, and noted that extending the surcharge by two years, through Dec. 31, 2024, would generate an extra $740 million. The city also suggested that, if necessary, it might engage in “value capture” strategies to raise additional money if there is a shortfall.

Those might include issuing tax increment financing bonds, which would allow the city to borrow against expected future increases in property tax collections.”

When you read the FTA’s actual letter, the wording is even stronger:

“FTA notes that the financial plan HART submitted is sufficient to advance the project into final design. However, it must be further strengthened before FTA will consider awarding an FFGA. Specifically, the financial plan states that additional revenues may be obtained from an extension of the General Excise Tax or implementation of value capture mechanisms. However, these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART’s ability to control. Prior to the Project’s consideration for an FFGA, HART should demonstrate the availability of additional revenue sources that could be tapped should unexpected events such as cost increases or funding shortfalls occur.

“Additionally, HART made assumptions in three areas that require further justification or amendment: (1) the containment of bus and HandiVan operating expenses; (2) the increasing share of the City’s annual budget required to fund the transit system; and (3) the diversion of Section 5307 funds from preventive maintenance to the Project. Prior to the Project’s consideration for an FFGA, HART should either provide further documentation justifying the reasonableness of these assumptions or consider revising these assumptions to more closely follow historical patterns.”

Carefully read the “value capture” strategy. And the last sentence from the Star Advertiser explains it all: “Those might include issuing tax increment financing bonds, which would allow the city to borrow against expected future increases in property tax collections.” In plain English, the city can borrow on the property tax hikes that they know are coming but have not yet even told you about. Do you think they are taking you for granted?

You need to email, tweet and/or post on your Facebook page your objections to more taxes for rail. Note that Verizon recently proposed a $2 user fee for people paying their bills online. Within 24 hours, they dropped the idea because of the thousands of emails and tweets they received that were adamantly opposed to it.

Here are some of the email addresses and tweet information you need to make your voice heard. Send emails, or tweet, all your friends and any email lists you have to voice your objections to any more taxation for the rail monstrosity.  And, especially email your council members with the following addresses. Make sure you include your address so that they know you are a constituent of theirs. Ask your friends to do the same.

 

Rail proponents have started lobbying State Legislature members whose votes they need to increase General Excise Taxation and any other new taxes. Make sure they know where you stand.

Find your representative at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=H

Find your senator at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=S

All the best to everyone for the New Year!

 

Bobbie and Cliff Slater are with HonoluluTraffic.com


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