Counties still hold hope for TAT

It doesn’t appear that Hawaii’s mayors are going to get their chance to raise the general excise tax this year. But counties could still get more revenue from a bigger share of the transient accommodations tax.

Bills to raise the GET promoted by the Hawaii Council of Mayors have been summarily ignored by the state Legislature, despite a unified plea from both the mayors’ council and the Hawaii State Association of Counties, the group representing county councils.

Bills SB 2115 and HB 1606 would have allowed the counties an extra penny on the dollar, a 25 percent increase in the tax. Neither bill was heard by a single committee, thus missing the deadline to be sent to the other chamber.

The prospects are brighter for the transient accommodations tax, known as the TAT. That money, collected as a surcharge on hotels and lodging rentals of less than 180 days, primarily comes from island visitors.

The Legislature capped it at $93 million about four years ago, costing counties millions in revenues. Mayor Billy Kenoi said the counties agreed to the cap because of the recession, but now that the economy is stronger, it’s time to give it back.