AP NEWS

Hawaii County mayor identifies 6 legislative priorities

January 11, 2020 GMT

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The mayor of Hawaii County has identified six legislative priorities ahead of a scheduled meeting with all four county mayors to begin the regular legislative session.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee and House Finance Committee have scheduled a joint informational session at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Wednesday, West Hawaii Today reported Friday.

A top priority is helping make health care more affordable by exempting private health-care providers from the general excise tax, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said.

“I had 12 individuals coming in to say, ‘Harry, we are in a crisis.’ On top of that, they said it’s getting worse,” Kim said. “Without a good health care system, you don’t have community growth.”

The exemption could make a big difference to physicians, while not costing the state all that much in taxes, Managing Director Roy Takemoto said.

Kim’s administration presented the priorities Monday to House Speaker Scott Saiki after communicating them to his county committees, Takemoto said.

Replacing cesspools with a sewer system is also on the list of priorities after health officials confirmed about 50,000 of the 88,000 in the state are on the Big Island, officials said. That priority aligns with a law passed in the 2017 legislative session, which requires all cesspools be replaced by 2050, officials said.

“It will be very, very difficult to meet the cesspool requirement,” Kim said. “One stroke of the pen increases the cost of a house by $10,000 to $20,000.”

Other priorities include providing more funding to homeless projects and redeveloping deteriorating spaces along Banyan Drive, officials said.