Fight Over Budget in New Transit Agency's Hands

Adrienne LaFrance/Civil Beat

A decision on whether to sue the Honolulu City Council could come up at the first official board meeting of a new rapid transit agency this week.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle on Monday backed off his threats to take the council to court over its decision to pass a budget for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. He now says he is waiting to see what HART decides to do with its first budget. The agency was created through a November ballot question, and is charged with planning, constructing, operating and maintaining Honolulu's $5.3 billion rail project.

A long-brewing fight between the executive and legislative branches centered on the council's attempts to amend and pass a budget for HART, even as Carlisle warned council members not to do so. It came to a head Monday when the council by a 9-0 vote overrode Carlisle's veto of its operating and capital budgets for the agency.

Last week, Carlisle said he was willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in a legal fight against the council. Both sides say they their interpretation of the council's role is clearly spelled out in the city charter question that led to the creation of the new transit agency.

The council has insisted that it has the right to amend and approve the HART budget. So when Carlisle refused to transfer a HART budget to the council for consideration, council members took a budget draft created by the Rapid Transit Division and amended it.

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