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February 1990

March 1990

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Rail Transit Task Force (Patricia Tummons)
We Won! ... Well, Almost! (Astrid Monson)
Vote Counts
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Rail Transit Task Force

January 29: The first meeting of the Rail Transit Task Force Committee chaired by Patricia Tummons addressed the scope of work, procedure and time table. It was decided that determination of specific goals should await the unveiling of the City's plans and the report from the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA). The study of the land use and environmental implications of the rail transit system would commence after the disclosure of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Mildred Walston offered to investigate and report on the status of the EIS in Honolulu Hale. Camille Butler agreed to contact other organizations such as the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OMPO), the Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA) who may be researching the question to avoid duplication. Astrid Monson agreed to lead the subcommittee to look at alternatives to rail transit and Patricia Tummons agreed to head up the subcommittee to start looking at the fiscal implications, in light of pending legislative action to give Counties an excise tax.

February 12: Patricia Card was selected as Vice-chair. The recording of minutes would be done on a rotating basis.

Mildred Walston reported that there was no set date given for the completion of the EIS.

Patricia Tummons reported the following: Looking into the implications that a rail transit system would have on the tax structure, findings are that the impact would be a negative one, with the proposed increase in the excise tax falling most heavily on those at the lower end of the income scale. Thus it is believed that the League should oppose any plan to finance a new rail system for Honolulu by increasing the excise tax.

Some of the reasons given were: Equity. From the Tax Review Commission's report (December 1989): "The tax burden should be fairly shared ...taxpayers in similar circumstances should be taxed alike (horizontal equity), and taxpayers in unequal circumstances should be taxed on the basis of their ability to pay (vertical equity). ... A tax structure is said to be 'progressive' when the tax burden varies directly with income (borne to a greater extent by higher income taxpayers), 'regressive' when the burden is inversely related to income (disproportionately borne by lower income taxpayers), and proportional when there is no change in burden as income changes" (page 2)

Good governmental policy. One of the recommendations of the Tax Review Commission is that special, earmarked funds should be avoided. "Special funds that merely set aside general fund revenues for general fund expenditures cannot be justified; they restrict budget flexibility, create inefficiencies, and lessen accountability-Desired programs and services can be given priority under the normal budget process without resorting to this type of financing". (page 4).

It was recommended that the League of Women Voters of Honolulu prepare testimony opposed to increasing the excise tax to finance the new rail system. It was unanimously agreed to by the committee.

Astrid Monson submitted an outline of alternatives to rail transit that will taken up in more detail at the next meeting set for February 27, 3:00 P.M.

Patricia Tummons
Chair, Rail Transit Task Force

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