(Star Advertiser) Mayor lets budget go without signing

  • GORDON PANG / GORDONPANG@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, flanked by several top city officials, explained Wednesday why he didn’t sign the $2.8 billion operating budget or $1.16 billion capital improvements budget.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Wednesday allowed the city’s $2.83 billion operating budget and other parts of the fiscal 2020 budget package to become law without his signature, the seventh consecutive year he’s taken such action.

Caldwell, in a memo to Council members, said he lets budget bills become law without his signature “based on an underlying disagreement (with the Honolulu City Council) over the apparent authority of the City Council to approve the budgets for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.”

Bill 10 is the operating budget, and Bill 11 is the CIP budget. Both contain items that are tied to HART and the city’s $9.2 billion East Kapolei-to-Ala Moana rail project.

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Caldwell also left unsigned the Council’s legislation budget (Bill 9), the HART operating budget (Bill 15) and the HART capital improvements budget (Bill 16), as well as a bill allowing the issuance and sale of bonds (Bill 17).

“It’s following procedure or the letter of the law,” Caldwell said, adding that he does not believe there are any legal ramifications on the budget either way.

The operating budget’s most significant changes involved higher property tax rates for owners of hotels, resorts and most higher-end residential properties.

Properties in the hotel- resort category will be taxed at $13.90 for every $1,000 of assessed value, up from $12.90 per $1,000 of valuation.

Owners in the Residential A category, with investment properties worth $1 million or more where the homeowner is not an occupant, will be taxed $10.50 per $1,000 of value for every $1,000 above $999,999. That is up from the current $9 per $1,000. The tax will continue to be $4.50 per $1,000 for the first $999,999 of value.

Both proposals were initiated by Caldwell, who said the projected $31 million in additional revenue annually is necessary to deal with fixed budget costs as well as the city’s need to ramp up for the scheduled December 2020 opening of rail’s first leg from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium.

Rejected by the Council was Caldwell’s proposal to impose a $10 monthly curbside trash pickup fee. Honolulu is the only county in the state that picks up trash without imposing a fee.

Highlights of the $1.16 billion CIP budget include $45 million to acquire land for the Ala Moana transit station, $70 million for land purchasing and construction of affordable housing, $17.3 million for homeless initiatives, $43 million for Salt Lake Boulevard widening, $35.6 million in city dollars for TheBus and TheHandi-van vehicles and $7 million for Honolulu Zoo improvements that will help the facility to again become accredited.

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