Honolulu Property Tax Overhaul Dead On Arrival?


The Honolulu City Council will start debating an overhaul to the property tax system next month, even though the idea is already been dismissed as a dead-on-arrival election-year tax increase.

Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi told Civil Beat Monday she plans to hold hearings starting in late January to discuss "the property tax system as a whole."

The discussion, she said, will focus on balancing revenues and expenditures. A major part of the debate will revolve around recommendations from the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission, which in its draft report advocates eliminating or reducing numerous exemptions that together return more than $100 million to city taxpayers.

The recommendations were quickly panned by some critics, but they highlight the inequities in the current system. For example, a widower getting by on Social Security benefits and a multi-millionaire pulling in six figures are eligible for the same exemption simply for owning their own homes.

The hearings will begin after the 30-day public comment period for the recommendations closes Jan. 9, Kobayashi said.

Some of the recommendations have already been lambasted. A weekend Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial (subscription required) said raising taxes in an election year was politically untenable and "a spectacular miscalculation."

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