Hawaii & Alaska
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HI - Proposed Tourist Tax Could Help Hawaii Deal With Climate Change Impacts

Legislative leaders want to bump up taxes that could be assessed on the kinds of things sought by higher-spending tourists and travelers.

Some leading House lawmakers are proposing new fees on ground transportation that is used by tourists as a way to raise cash to balance the state budget in the short term, and to help cope with the impacts of global warming in the longer term.

The first draft of House Bill 433 does not indicate exactly how large of a tax increase lawmakers have in mind. When Hawaii visitor arrivals and car rentals are near their peak, a $1 per day increase in the existing car rental surcharge can raise $10 million or more per year.

House Consumer Protection and Commerce Chairman Aaron Ling Johanson said lawmakers are deliberately leaving the size of the new fee open for discussion because "there is a balance."

"We need tourism to be able to come back, but we also are exploring this so that we're ensuring it's the kind of tourists that are best for Hawaii, and it's not necessarily mass, budget tourism where everybody's looking for the cheapest prices and people are just coming here in droves," he said.

"We're looking more for the higher dollar, higher spend kind of tourists," he said.

He said lawmakers are pursuing multiple goals at once with the bill, including funding climate change mitigation and "promoting responsible tourism."

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