In Support of the General Excise Tax to Fund a Rail System

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”’Editor’s Note: The following comments were made on July 6, 2005, by Honolulu Council Member Gary Okino at the second reading of Bill 40, which would allow the Honolulu City Council to raise the General Excise Tax 12.5 percent. In this Battle of Ideas, see the remarks by Council Member Charles Djou at:”’ “Council Should Reject Bill 40 And Not Raise General Excise Tax”

“Gary Okino Image”


Mr. Chairman, I think everybody by now knows where I stand on this.

I’ve been a professional planner for over 40 years. I’ve looked at this thing inside and out. I visited systems all over the world. The evidence is overwhelming. The only thing that will help our traffic congestion problem here in Honolulu is a good rail system like the one in Vancouver.

There are many misconceptions to this issue.

People are raising false points in trying to convince everyone that this is not a good idea.

Let’s just take the tax issue for one. The general excise tax actually spreads the burden to tourists, to the military, people who are bringing outside contractors to the state. The total [cost per] person, in my calculation, is less than $100 a year.

Let’s talk about the cost of congestion. If you dwell in traffic in some area, they’re going to be taking three hours to commute to town, six hours a day. Just the cost of gas would more than cover the cost of $100 a year per person. But there are other costs, huge, intangible costs.

What’s a cost to a person’s life, of dwelling, sitting in traffic for six hours a day? What’s the cost to our economy? What about our merchants, businesses that have to move goods and services, if they’re stuck in gridlock, how do you think they’re going to make up the cost? They’re going to pass it to the residents.

The cost of congestion is tremendous. Tremendous.

Sacrificing 0.5 percent of the excise tax is the least of all evils.

We need this rail system.

There are 400 cities in the world that have rail systems that work. Without it, they’d be in gridlock. What do these other cities know about rail that we don’t know? We have access to a worldwide database that shows clearly, clearly that rail cities have four times more transit use per capita than all bus cities.

When people say they won’t use the system, they will. Transit uses explode.
And Vancouver is the perfect examples. U.S. cities, four times more transit use.
This is something that’s nice to have or — to me it’s not a choice. It’s something we critically need for the sake of our community, for our families’ live time.

For [our] economy, for our businesses, it’s a no-brainer. Is it a no-brainer.
The benefit we’re going to bring is so huge. Take my word as a planner.

I’ve looked at this over and over and over again. The evidence is not even close. And that’s why I want to encourage all of my council members to support this. Strongly support this. Because this is the biggest benefit we’re going to bring to the city, the City and County of Honolulu.

Thank you.

”’Gary Okino is the Honolulu City Council member representing District 8, which includes Fort Shafter, Moanalua, Halawa, Aiea, Pearl City, Pearl City Peninsula, Seaview, Crestview, and Waipio Gentry. He can be reached by phone at 547-7008 or via email at:”’

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