Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Monday that he currently plans to veto eight of the 252 bills the Legislature approved this past session.
Bills to combat sex trafficking, allow University of Hawaii graduate students to unionize and clarify the order of succession for lieutenant governor were among those he’ll potentially veto.
Monday was the deadline for the governor to submit his list of bills that he intends to veto. He has until July 14 to actually do so — or change his mind. The 101 other bills Ige has yet to take action on will become law, with or without his signature.
The most notable bill not on the governor’s intent-to-veto list is legislation that will allow Honolulu, with approval from the City Council, to extend the half-percent General Excise Tax surcharge to fund the $6 billion rail project, now facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall.
The surcharge is currently set to expire in 2022. House Bill 134 would extend the sunset date five years, far less than what Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell sought.
The legislation also lets the neighbor-island counties levy a similar half-percent GET surcharge for public transportation projects and gives them the same sunset date of 2027.
The bill will become law since it wasn’t on Ige’s intent-to-veto list, but it may do so without his signature in part over information that surfaced Friday suggesting Caldwell misled the Legislature when lobbying for its passage.
The mayor had said the extension was needed to cover the shortfall for the 20-mile route or else the county would have to look at raising property taxes by 30 percent to 43 percent. But internal emails obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser show the Honolulu Authority of Rapid Transportation had estimated the city would only have to increase the median property tax by 5.6 percent.
“That’s part of the equation as to whether I sign or not,” Ige told reporters at a press conference Monday.
“The reason I did not have it on my veto list is that in my review of the information provided, it’s clear that HART is short in terms of the funding that’s required for that first segment,” he said.
The governor said the measure will ensure, based on the current budget, that there is enough money to finish the first segment and possibly plan for additional routes.
“I am committed to seeing the rail project successfully completed,” Ige said, but added that “any funds for future expansion should be decided by future legislation.”
Another important bill not on the governor’s intent-to-veto list is the one establishing medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. That too will become law with or without his signature.
Ige said he hasn’t decided yet whether he will sign House Bill 321, which will allow eight companies to open two pot dispensaries each as soon as July 15, 2016.
He said he may not sign the bill over concerns about its “aggressive” implementation schedule and the amount of resources the Legislature appropriated. The bill includes $1.5 million over the next two years and five permanent positions for the Department of Health.
As of Monday, the governor had signed 142 bills into law.
Here is the list of bills Ige intends to veto and his rationale.