A proposal to extend Honolulu’s 0.5 percent General Excise Tax surcharge to help pay for the city’s controversial $6 billion rail project looks like it’ll come down to the wire.

On Wednesday, House and Senate conference committee members met once again to strike a deal on a tax extension, which city officials say is needed to help fill in a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

But little appeared to have been accomplished since the last hearing that was held earlier in the week. Lawmakers scheduled to reconvene Friday at 1:45 p.m. to seek a compromise. They have until a 6 p.m. deadline to reach a deal.

Rep Sylvia Luke and Sen Jill Tokuda chat after joint WAM/Finance committee meeting on the excise tax extension. 27 april 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, left, and Sen. Jill Tokuda must find middle ground if a rail tax extension is going to be passed this session.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The House side wants the surcharge to be cut in half to 0.25 percent and extended for 25 years starting in 2018. Senators say they want the current 0.5 percent surcharge to be extended for five years beyond its 2022 sunset.

Both sides have tried to entice the other with incentives, including having counties take over so-called “roads in limbo.” The House proposal that came out Wednesday included that provision as well as another, unique option to give the state “air rights” above the rail system.

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, who heads the House Finance Committee, said the House members were concerned about advertising above the rail line and would want the state to have control over that space.

But Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said in the past that he wanted the “air rights” for the city to help shore up the project deficit.

During a December press conference, Caldwell said he wanted to take advantage of public-private partnerships with developers to see if they could use the space above it for parking, commercial or residential purposes.

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