Senator Josh Green, speaking in Kona Thursday night, said the approximately $18 million in Transient Accommodations Tax which Hawaii County has included in its budget, is safe. In last year’s legislative session, the State Legislature considered keeping those funds in the State coffers—which would have resulted in Hawaii County having to increase taxes and fees or significantly cut its $367 million budget if it lost $18 million.
The Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) is collected on all stays in hotels, condominiums, and bed and breakfasts. Last year, Mayor Billy Kenoi explained the fund is to help the counties cover costs incurred by those transient visitors who use County facilities—roads, beaches, parks, and even fire and rescue personnel.
Senator Green said he and his colleagues met last week and agreed to leave those funds with the counties for this next year. With the Governor announcing earlier this week that the State budget situation has eased, that would make it a challenge for the State Legislature to now turn around and try to take those funds from the counties.
Senator Green hosted a “talk story” session at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel Thursday night. Around 30 people attended.
Green said his priorities for the next legislative session, which starts January 18, 2012, include getting a new courthouse built in West Hawaii and getting Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway Phase II completed. He also responded to concerns of teachers who said the schools continue to be desperately in need of repairs. Green said he met with the Governor’s advisors and deputies last week and reinforced the importance to the community of getting Honokohau Harbor upgraded, which is being handled by the State Department of Land and Natural Resources. Green, said he’s also focused on ensuring that the two State-funded hospitals continue to be able to operate in a meaningful way. Senator Green, a physician, continues to work in the Emergency Room at Kohala Hospital on weekends.
Senator Green said he’s committed to continuing and increasing tobacco taxes. He also said he’s committed to strengthening programs to stop drunk and impaired driving.