Liberate The Honolulu Rail Tax

Heavy rail on a tiny island at a huge cost
Heavy rail on a tiny island
article top

Heavy rail on a tiny island at a huge cost
Heavy rail on a tiny island

BY MICHAEL G. PALCIC – With the GE tax surcharge authorization, The State of Hawaii has tied The City and County of Honolulu to a heavy rail project nullifying home rule while posing dire long-term financial consequences for Oahu residents.


I believe that the restriction on expenditure of GET Surcharge revenue (limited now by the State to rail transit only for Oahu) should be rescinded
to give Honolulu County the flexibility to reprioritize its transportation program in light of current economic conditions and fiscal reality.

The time is ripe for the State Legislature to modify existing law to permit all Hawaii counties to expend GET Surcharge monies for any public
transportation improvements including road construction and maintenance, public mass transit, traffic control synchronization, mitigation of traffic
bottlenecks or for any project the county deems worthy to improve traffic flows within its jurisdiction.

It may well soon become apparent to decision makers in Honolulu that the deterioration of our existing vital transportation infrastructure and the
impeded traffic flows on our roads and highways does great harm to the prospects for a return to robust economic health and the full employment of
our workforce.

There are at present great demands upon the public purse.  To insist upon the allocation of huge sums to the planning, construction, maintenance and
operation of heavy rail in Honolulu is the height of folly. The public will come to see that this is so.

The City & County of Honolulu must have authorization from the State to alter the planned expenditure of these funds. Having this authorization in
place will enable the Mayor and Council to make the requisite changes, once they come to their senses, and move efficiently to address the most pressing
transportation challenges.

Despite all of this, the drumbeat of pro-rail propaganda continues. Today we are told that in time Oahu residents will save 20 million travel hours
annually. That might work out to 1 to 2 hours per month for each of us. Is it worth the $5,000+ each for construction, plus the operation and
maintenance costs, plus the megawatt-hours of electricity consumed, plus the continued deterioration of the balance of our transportation system as
resources are diverted to keep the trains on the tracks?

And how much time will a typical commuter actually save? Leaving home in the morning to make oneʻs way to the station: waiting for a ride, a bus, biking
or walking; riding the 20mph rail to oneʻs destination; making oneʻs way to the job by bus, taxi, on foot or skate board. Doesnʻt all that take time?

Loss of time.  Loss of money.  Loss of freedom and flexibility.  The price weʻll pay for this “system” is greater that most of us imagine.

Our legislature should act now so that Honolulu has the option to correct its course and avoid the trap that engulfs so many municipalities across the

Michael G. Palcic is a small businessman in Honolulu