There will be no increase in Hawaii’s general excise tax this year — but Hawaii’s Senate Ways and Means Committee still kept alive proposals to temporarily suspend some GET exemptions.

The committee voted 10-4 to advance a gutted version of House Bill 793. The proposal for a temporary 1 percent GET increase that would last two years was taken out. Only the temporary suspension of exemptions survived in the amended bill. Ways and Means Chairman David Ige said after the vote he was blindsided by the changes, which were introduced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.

The issue had drawn the ire of the business community in Hawaii, who packed the Capitol auditorium earlier this week, offering strong testimony on why a GET increase (and the suspension of exemptions) should be tabled. Representatives of organized labor largely supported the hike, saying it spread the burden.

The temporary suspension would apply to exemptions given mostly to businesses, including contractors, sugarcane producers, petroleum refiners and tugboat operators. The suspension of the GET exemptions would apply from between Jan 1, 2012 and June 30, 2015.

The exemptions at best would generate $191 million, said Ige, who said he voted against the bill because he didn’t agree with the amendments.

“Nobody’s budget balances at this point in time,” Ige told reporters. “So at the end of the day, we’ll have to either come up with revenues or cut the budget.”

Thursday’s decision-making on the bill had turned into a political who’s who with Senate President Shan Tsutsui along with Sens. Brickwood Galuteria and Les Ihara walking into the room for the vote.

Here’s the final vote:

Voting No:

  • David Ige
  • Carol Fukunaga
  • Sam Slom
  • Suzanne Chun Oakland

Voting Yes:

  • Donovan Dela Cruz
  • Kalani English
  • Gilbert Kahele
  • Ronald Kouchi
  • Pohai Ryan
  • Jill Tokuda
  • Donna Mercado Kim
  • Glenn Wakai

Yes With reservations:

  • Michelle Kidani
  • Will Espero

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