By B.J. Reyes
In one of their earlier finishes in recent years (i.e., not going till midnight), House and Senate conferees completed work on their bills just before 10 p.m. tonight.
One of the measures being watched statewide was Senate Bill 1186, which would — among other things — cap the amount of hotel room tax revenue going to the counties and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
House members had proposed a cap of $101 million, roughly 45 percent of the total taken in by the transient accommodations tax. Senate members late Thursday night floated a proposal to cap the amount at $85 million.
The compromise was announced at 9:40 p.m.: $93 million.
Among those prowling the Capitol hallways late last night was City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia (a former state rep who has seen the House-Senate brinksmanship in the final days of the session first-hand).
He estimated the loss to city at between $6 million and $7 million. Said Garcia:
“Now each of the counties has to go back and reassess, relative to their own budgets. But I tell you what, it could’ve been worse. So I’m happy to say we, sort of, dodged a bullet on that one.
“We’ve been diligent in our review of the budget. We’ve been prudent, we’ve been taking the knife. I;d like to think it won’t be as much of an impact as it might have been if we went more to the Senate version.”
City Managing Director Doug Chin, who also was among those in the crowded conference room, said the Carlisle administration was disappointed. Said Chin:
“We think there’s going to be some serious challenges to our budget because of rising energy costs as well as issues related to labor negotiations. I think this is one more tough pill that we’re going to have to swallow.
“There’s going to be a lot of tough challenges for the city as far as what. It’s going to difficult to balance this budget but we want to do what we can to keep working with the Council on trying to make it work for the city.”
The City Council has kept alive various tax hikes and fee increases — as well as steep departmental cuts — in anticipation of some loss of revenue from the state.