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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have exempted homeowners actively serving in the armed forces from being taxed on the first $120,000 of the assessed value of their home.
In a letter explaining his veto, Caldwell said he appreciated the intent of the bill but thought it unfair to exempt military services members without exempting other public safety officers including police, emergency medical technicians, sheriffs, FBI investigators and others.
“Bill 91 only singles out active military members which we believe is an unfair application of the proposed exemption,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell also noted that service members already receive from $2,000 to $4,000 per month in tax-free allowances “which they can apply toward housing and meals,” he said.
“Military service members already receive substantial benefits for housing in our community,” Caldwell said. “The impact of this practice on Honolulu’s affordable housing inventory is negative because landlords are able to charge rent at a level that is out of reach for many civilians.”
The city’s finance department lacks the data to project how much the proposed tax breaks would cost the city, but estimated a loss of $1 million.
Honolulu offers homeowners an exemption on the first $80,000 of the assessed value of their home as long as the home is owner-occupied.
Bill 91 stalled for months after council Chair Ernie Martin introduced it in November, but quickly passed through the council once Martin regained the chairmanship in March. It gained final approval on a 6-2 vote at the July 11 City Council meeting.
Council members Joey Manahan and Ron Menor voted against it. Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi was absent for the vote.
The Hawaii National Guard Enlisted Association worked with Martin on the measure, which it called a “well-deserved benefit” to those in the military.
Martin, who is running for Congress, could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.
It’s not clear if he plans to schedule the measure for a vote to override the veto. The council chair is responsible for scheduling an override, which requires six votes and must be done within 30 days of the veto.
The action is one in a series of vetoes Caldwell has made since Martin regained the chairmanship.
Last month, Caldwell vetoed a measure introduced by Martin that would have capped the amount Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies can charge customers. The measure had passed the council on a 6-3 vote but Martin did not schedule it for a veto override vote.
In April, Caldwell vetoed a measure introduced by Councilman Trevor Ozawa that aimed to get rid of the afternoon contraflow lane along Kapiolani Boulevard. In May the mayor vetoed a measure that aimed to get rid of sidewalk extensions in Chinatown. Neither measure was scheduled for an override vote.
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