State skim = rail scam

One factor that greatly erodes confidence in the $5.5 billion O’ahu rail project is the annual attempt of the Legislature to raid funds from the half-cent excise tax enacted by the city to pay for the train.

This year, senators are proposing to “borrow” $200 million from the rail fund to enable them to balance the state’s budget while ducking the tough decisions to get their own financial house in order.

The state is already skimming 10 percent off the top of the transit tax — potentially $400 million over the life of the tax — to pay for nonexistent “administrative costs.” This unnecessarily runs up the cost to O’ahu taxpayers for Hawai‘i’s most expensive public works project by 10 percent right off the bat.

In Mayor Peter Carlisle’s first appearance before the Legislature, he wimpishly let Maui Sen. J. Kalani English extract a promise from him not to try to get the 10 percent back.

It’s no wonder English is so protective of the state’s share of the transit levy; it essentially forces O’ahu taxpayers to subsidize his Maui constituents by paying a 4.5 percent excise tax for some state services while neighbor islanders pay only 4 percent.

The concern is that instead of tightly watching expenses on this enormously costly project to keep it from growing out of control, it’s being treated by lawmakers like a giant slush fund that could turn into the biggest orgy of profiteering Hawai‘i has ever seen.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that the combination of the city’s excise tax plus whatever federal share emerges from a cost-cutting Congress won’t be enough to build the 20-mile commuter line, much less cover the operating costs.

That city leaders refuse to say how they’ll make up the difference — and that the Legislature and Abercrombie administration shamelessly skim instead of holding the city’s feet to the fire — should make us all very nervous.

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9 Comments on “State skim = rail scam”

  1. zzzzzz Says:

    The problem seems to start at the top, with Carlisle’s decision to keep Mufi’s people–Yoshioka, Hamayasu, et al–in charge of the train.

    These are the same people who were in charge when the ‘community meetings’ were held to create the illusion that public input was being considered in the train design decisions.

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    We need mass transit for many different reasons which is why I am willing to put up with the current plan. Greenhouse gas emissions/climate change/oil wars/peak oil/economic impacts – take your pick. They’re all valid.

    I went to numerous mass transit public meetings over the past 30 years and remember the arguments used against not just this plan but all of the plans.

    However, based upon recent stories in the MSM, it’s pretty clear that Anti-Annie and Da Greek Geek are not going to give up their fight to keep us using fossil fuels and sending our young adults to keep us addicted to oil.

    Remember Bus Mass Trancit killed by the same opponents to fixed rail ten years ago? it is interesting indeed that this concept is now being promoted as a viable substitute for the current plan by these very same people.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

  3. ppcc Says:

    from zzzzzzzz
    “The problem seems to start at the top, with Carlisle’s decision to keep Mufi’s people–Yoshioka, Hamayasu, et al–in charge of the train”

    Why did Carlisle do that?
    If I had to guess, and I don’t think I that far off, Carlisle made a pact with rail special interest, the SAME ones who provided Mufi with tons of campaign money; that in exchange for leaving all of the same rail minions in charge and blindly pushing the rail agenda as Mufi had done, Carlisle will get all the campaign funding he needs for the next election, and the one following that if he should win his first 4 year term. What will determine if Carlisle wins the upcoming mayoral election are whether or not all of the major gov’t employee unions back up Carlisle. After how Carlisle and Abercrombie are expecting non HSTA/UHPA gov’t employee union workers and retirees such as AUW, HGEA, etc to shoulder the budget shortfalls and the cost for the rail, these union leaders would be FOOLS to support Carlisle and Abercrombie again in the next elections. However prejudice is a bad trait and these gov’t union leaders will NEVER support any non-democratic candidate who is for fiscal responsibility. In fact they and many posters do a good job of DEMONIZING non democratic candidates even though many rank and file gov’t union workers would be better off some of these alternative candidates. Abecrombies financial plan is NOT fiscally responsible if he wants to tax retirees, cut salaries of non HSTA/UHPA gov’t employee workers salaries, increase gov’t taxes and fees, give more money to UH and the DOE, and still SUPPORT the 8+ BILLION train to nowhere. Said this last time, the irony is that non HSTA/UHPA gov’t unions would have been better off if Aiona had become governor cause 1) He had enough independence to speak AGAINST the Oahu train to nowhere when it has now become abundantly clear Hawaii CANNOT afford this project 2) Aiona did not “owe” HSTA and wanted to audit the DOE to identify then eliminate the massive waste, graft and corruption in the DOE. Specifically in Abercrombie proposed budget he want INCREASES in funding for DOE transportation contracts and charter schools even though it was in the news that the transportation contracts often are bid by only ONE company and inflated rates and a Charter school principal has not been disciplined much less audited for hiring all of her family members at taxpayer’s expense, including a sister(?) who works full time as a flight attendant for Hawaiian Air. Given such evidence of waste, graft and corruption why would you blindly give MORE money to the DOE? Also I don’t know what the big issue is with the Governor wanting to hire a CIO “technology czar” for the State given the DOE hired a CIO or some similar position and that has done NOTHING to improve efficiency, accountability or cost improvements in DOE’s computer infrastructure.

    from Capitolist:
    “We need mass transit for many different reasons which is why I am willing to put up with the current plan.”

    Oahu already HAS mass transit and it is called THE BUS. In the news I think it was mentioned that percentage wise, Hawaii is 4th highest in the nation in use of their MASS TRANSIT system. Also you are aware that very soon their will be non-fossil fuel powered buses running on electricity, hydrogen, compress gas, flywheel technology, etc. Also you realize although the train is run on electricity, the electricity generated by HECO to power the train is based on fossil fuels. Therefore in the end, the train does NOT reduce Oahu’s dependence on fossil fuels. But most importantly the bottom line is that for Oahu, NOT Denver, NY, Atlanta, Vancouver, etc our weekday morning/afternoon gridlock traffic is created by our private/public school commuting crowd and after spending $8+ BILLION for the train to go from an empty field in Kapolei to Ala Moana Ctr, these people WILL NEVER use the train as it will easily double their one way commute time compared to a private vehicle or express Bus. You can talk about how eventually the train will reach UH or go to Ewa Beach however that is not even in the current price tag and could easily add many more BILLIONS of dollars to the already unaffordable price tag of the train.

  4. ppcc Says:

    What about UH President Greenwood continuing to receive $60,000 per year for TEMPORARY housing allowance until renovations to the UH Presidents home in Manoa is completed, which has been completed some time ago. Why hasn’t Abercrombie spoken out against this waste of taxpayer monies when he is trying to tax retirees with $37,500 in retirement benefits, tax soda drinkers or demanding all non HSTA/UHPA gov’t employee workers take a 5% pay cut? That is NOT shared sacrifice, rather gross hypocrisy.

  5. Richard Gozinya Says:

    I keep thinking we currently subsidize the Bus to tune of…what?…$130 – $150 million per year. That’s a lot but I have no problem with coughing up my share for the common good. But when I extrapolate (OK, guesstimate) the annual operating subsidy for the Supah ChooChoo,I realize it will be a tax black hole forever, swallowing vast sums of revenue that could be better used elsewhere.

    The $50k per foot capital cost is staggering but the forever operating costs are even scarier and nobody seems to be looking at that much. It’s all happy,happy,joy,joy.

    That is what causes my personal erosion of confidence in the rail project.

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    A bus system is NOT a mass transit system because it shares the same roadways as other vehicles.

    BMT would have been run on a dedicated “roadway” and would not have to compete with cars & trucks for space.

    The bus system here – and I spend $60 for a pass every month – does provide transportation services, but it is not the same as riding on a dedicated rail system.

    How many of you actually ride the bus on a regular basis? if you did, then you would also be a supporter of mass transit.

  7. Michael Says:

    Someone in business is pulling strings to get rail built. hanneman brought up a dead idea by the late Frank Fasi but did not have the business sense to see it through. If APEC is dealt with in a business way, foreign investors will make it happen but not for a free ride. It will cost Hawaii people in the future another ama. You cannot conquer Hawaii, you can always buy it out.

  8. WooWoo Says:

    I don’t see how someone as intelligent as you are can put up with the corruption just because you are enamored with rail. This is exactly how the entire system gets bloated. You’re willing to overlook this on your project, someone else is willing another 10% on another project, so on and so forth. Meanwhile, the 10% adds up and the people paying the 10% suffer while the people getting the 10% maintain and increase their grip on political power in this state.

    The truth of the matter is (and I suspect you know this) the problems you have with the state of affairs in this state are not due to the 8 or so republicans in elected office. It is due to the willingness of too many well intentioned people to pay the 10% to the crooks in the majority because fill-in-the-blank is worth it.

  9. ppcc Says:

    Wikipedia definition for “Mass Transit”

    “Public transport (also public transportation, public transit, or MASS TRANSIT is a shared passenger transportation service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as Taxicab and car pooling which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement.

    Public transport modes include BUSES, trolleybuses, trams and trains, ‘rapid transit’ (metro/subways/undergrounds etc) and ferries.”

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