The counties will likely know Monday afternoon if the state is going to give them millions of dollars in additional hotel tax money.

Hawaii lawmakers are scheduled to meet in conference committee to finally decide the issue that has kept local officials guessing all session.

Kauai, Maui, Hawaii and Honolulu counties currently get a combined $93 million of the transient accommodations tax revenue since the state capped it in 2010. They used to get 44.8 percent of however much money the state collected each year to split between them.

A joint House-Senate committee expects to vote on a bill that would remove the cap, but the latest draft of the legislation leaves the percent blank.

Before deferring the bill Thursday, Rep. Tom Brower said the House could be looking into some amendments. He didn’t offer any details at that time, but those will likely be unveiled Monday.

The Abercrombie administration maintains that the state can’t afford to lose all that cash, especially since the Council on Revenues now projects zero growth this year and hundreds of millions of dollars less than expected over the next two years.

Finance Director Kalbert Young has said that if the cap is lifted and the counties still get 44.8 percent of the TAT money, the state general fund would lose $81 million in fiscal 2015, $98 million in 2016, $107 million in 2017, $116 million in 2018 and $126 million in 2019.

County mayors and council members have lobbied hard for the cap to be lifted. They say it’s money they deserve because it goes toward services they provide that tourists use, including roads, parks, police and lifeguards.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell estimates that the city spends $140 million to $180 million, 7 percent to 9 percent of the city’s operating budget, on services that are “key to keeping Honolulu globally competitive as a safe and desirable destination.” The city’s portion of the TAT is currently $41 million.

Busy Week Ahead

Lifting the hotel tax cap is one of many decisions that state lawmakers will be making over the next two weeks. There are dozens of bills that the House and Senate are working to find common ground on before the session ends May 1.

The vote on the TAT legislation, House Bill 1671, will play into the decisions lawmakers make on the overall budget, House Bill 1700.

A conference committee led by House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige has met twice to start ironing out the difference between the two chambers’ versions of the $12 billion budget.

The committee is set to resume its work Monday. It’s been mostly minor stuff so far, so this week could involve some big announcements on funding certain state projects and programs.

Two bills to strengthen Hawaii’s lobbying laws are up for decision-making Wednesday.

Senate Bill 2629, introduced by Sen. Les Ihara, would force lobbyists to report the money they spend and who gave it to them within 30 days of the end of a special session. 

And Senate Bill 2634, introduced by Sens. David Ige and Ihara, would require lobbyists to itemize their expenses so the public can have a better picture of how they are exerting their influence.

There’s also a major ethics bill that lawmakers will consider Tuesday.

Sen. Clayton Hee convinced his colleagues to hold off on a vote Thursday so he could see how Gov. Neil Abercrombie felt about requiring some of the most powerful state boards and commissions to start filing public financial disclosure statements. 

If Senate Bill 2682 can avoid a veto, Hee said he’s inclined to go along with the House version of the legislation despite its broader reach. 

The Senate draft would just require the Public Utilities Commission commissioners to publicly disclose their financial interests. The House version adds 15 more agencies, including the Hawaii Community Development Association, Board of Land and Natural Resources and University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Hawaii lawmakers are also set to consider debating bills next week about the minimum wage, police misconduct disclosure, revenge porn, taro protection, affordable housing, kupuna care and Sunshine Law exemptions for county council meetings — to name just a few.

For a complete list of the hearings, visit the Capitol website here.

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