New fee could save money for Oahu drivers

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Gas prices in Hawaii keep on climbing. And with every fill up, you’re helping to fix our roads with a county gas tax. But what if that tax went away and your car registration went up instead?

The idea of a highway user fee is gaining steam. It would save some drivers cash while costing others extra.

It’s no secret that Oahu’s roads are in poor shape. To fix them, the city needs more cash.

“I introduced Bill 22 to initiate a county highway user fee because our research shows that the county share of the fuel tax is unsustainable as we’ve been losing money on the fuel tax over a number of years,” Honolulu City Councilmember Ikaika Anderson said.

A fee around $75 would be tacked on to car registrations to go into the highway repair fund.

Councilmember Anderson says it would ensure that all drivers pay their fair share, not just those who use more gas.

“I do plan to follow up with another bill that will repeal the county’s share of the fuel tax,” Councilmember Anderson said.

Which is currently 16.5 cents a gallon into that repair fund. So here’s a simple breakdown: Say you put 10 gallons of gas in your vehicle each week. With the county gas tax now, you’re paying about $85 a year, which is more than the proposed $75 user fee.

“If it means that we’ll be paying less, then probably a flat fee,” Honolulu resident Ron Kano said.

But it’s not such a great deal for Honolulu resident Ernie Reyes, who is now retired.

Reyes: “I drive less, but I get two cars here.”

KHON2: “So now you drive less, but that means that you’ll be paying for two cars a flat fee even though you don’t drive as much. How do you feel about that?”

Reyes: “I don’t like that, I don’t like it.”

The bill would benefit those who have a longer commute because they naturally have to fill up more than others. But it could hurt the very ones who bought a vehicle so they wouldn’t have to visit the gas pump.

“A lot of people out there in the community have invested in electric or hybrid vehicles,” Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang said. “And part of their economic calculation is that if they can use less gas, they can save some money that way and hopefully make their investment pay off a little bit.”

It’s a mixed bag of opinions that will be open to more as the bill moves on, giving others a chance to weigh in at a public hearing.

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