BY JIM DOOLEY

Governor Neil Abercromnbie is proposing new increases to vehicle ownership taxes and fees that have already jumped substantially in recent years.

Under two measures that were passed today by the state Senate Transportation and International Affairs Committee, the state would double the vehicle weight tax and impose an 80 per cent increase in the annual motor vehicle registration fee.

The levies would come on top of vehicle fees already collected by the counties.

Interim Transportation Department director Glenn Okimoto said the state portion of the vehicle registration fee would increase from $25 to $45 dollars and would raise $34 million for maintenance of highways.

Weight taxes would double, depending on the size of the car or truck, with the extra income also flowing in to the highway fund.

All told, the “revenue enhancements” would add between $50 and $60 million to the fund.

Representatives from the trucking and car rental industries testified against the measures.

Gareth Sakakida of the Hawaii Transportation Association noted that Honolulu City & County increased the vehicle weight tax last year and this year, costing owners and average of $800 more per vehicle.

The new state charges would add $170 more, Sakakida said.

Christine Ogawa Karamatsu, lobbyist for the Enterprise, Alamo and National car rental chains, asked the senators to consider the implications of doubling vehicle fees and taxes.

“Much of this increase will be passed on to Enterprise’s customers in the form of higher rental fees” and will “will make the cost of a Hawaii vacation less attractive than other comparable visitor destination areas,” said Ogawa Karamatsu.

Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Hawai’i Kai, ‘Aina Haina, Kahala, Diamond Head), the Senate’s only Republican, cast the sole no votes on the two administration measures.

He said vehicle registration and weight tax increases imposed by the state and counties in recent years are already a burden on drivers.

Slom said that last week he paid the $313 bill for his personal vehicle. “It was $150 five years ago when I bought the car,” Slom said.

Slom is a columnist for Hawaii Reporter.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com