The Honolulu City Council approved a measure Wednesday to give a property tax break to active-duty military personnel.

If it’s signed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Bill 91 gives military homeowners an exemption on the first $120,000 of the value of their property as long as they provide proof of service status.

Correction: An earlier version of the report said the exemption would be for $80,000 of property value. 

The measure was introduced by Council Chair Ernie Martin last year. It gained final approval on a 6-2 vote.

United States Air Force personnel march in the annual Kamehameha floral parade. 13 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
U.S. Air Force personnel march in the annual Kamehameha floral parade in 2015. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii National Guard Enlisted Association President R. Maui Quizon told the council that more than 100 service members submitted written testimony in support of the bill.

“Voting to approve Bill 91 will not only demonstrate your steadfast support and gratitude for our service members, but moreover echo what I believe is a sentiment of the vast majority if not all citizens of this great state and the City and County of Honolulu,” Quizon said.

Council members Joey Manahan and Brandon Elefante expressed concerns over the language of the measure.

In response to Quizon’s testimony, Manahan asked if only members of the Hawaii National Guard were eligible for the exemption. He also asked if it applied to active or inactive members of the armed services.

The exemption would be made available to all armed service branches such as the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, according to the bill.

Elefante said that he was concerned about its “unknown fiscal impacts” and that property tax exemptions should be granted with a “needs-based approach.”

But he still voted for the bill.

Manahan voted against it, saying its approval would be “premature.” He also said the Tax Review Commission recommended the issue be studied before pushing the measure forward.

“It’s too broad, it sets no income limits to qualify for the exemption which means that servicemen and veterans making six figures would be able to qualify for this exemption,” Manahan said. “That would be balanced on the backs of our residents who may need it the most.”

Councilman Ron Menor also voted “no.”

In response to Manahan’s concerns, Martin told council members that they had “ample opportunity to offer amendments along the way.” He added that they were aware that the potential loss in revenue for the county was $1 million.

Martin, who comes from a family that served in the military, said the bill is a “personal matter for him.”

“Knowing what these men and women do on a daily basis, putting their life in peril, to say that we cannot support this matter, to me, is something that is unacceptable,” he said.

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