Published in The Maui News, February 21, 2016
By MIKE WHITE , The Maui News
On Thursday at 1 p.m., the Special Committee on County Governance will meet for the sixth time to evaluate a possible county manager form of government for the County of Maui.
The mayor is currently elected to serve as the county’s chief executive, whereas a county manager would be appointed to operate the county based on professional experience and management qualifications. The special committee has thus far heard from national and local experts, including the two most recent Maui County mayors and a representative of the International City/County Management Association.
Some of the special committee’s research shows a county manager form of governance tends to promote innovation and long-term, communitywide investments. The special committee must report its findings by June so the council can decide whether to place a charter amendment on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
The special committee, composed of 11 volunteers, needs to hear from more Maui County residents before reporting to the council. Please consider testifying at Thursday’s meeting in the Council Chambers or submitting comments to email@example.com.
On Friday at 9 a.m., the council will consider a resolution asking the state Legislature to provide the county governments with the same share of transient accommodations tax revenue as the state government. The TAT was created in 1987 and since 1990 has provided revenue to the counties.
The TAT revenue stream was based on a formula to recognize the services provided by county government that support the visitor industry. But the Legislature has diluted the counties’ share over the years.
For instance, as money was needed to balance the state budget during the economic downturn starting in 2008, the Legislature arbitrarily capped the counties’ TAT revenue. The state has effectively taken more than $315 million from the counties over the last five years and has shifted the cost of providing visitor services to residents.
The four county councils, four county mayors and a state working group all contend it’s time to reinstitute a formula that returns money to the counties based on a percentage of TAT revenue. As stated in the resolution, “an equal split of TAT revenue between the state and the counties would be more consistent with the TAT’s history, promote more fairness for county taxpayers and promote a viable, sustainable visitor industry.”
The resolution has been recommended for adoption by the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. I’ve already shared my perspective in testimony on several TAT-related bills at the state Legislature, and I will continue to closely monitor deliberations throughout the rest of the legislative session through May 5.
* Mike White is chairman of the Maui County Council and vice-chairman of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.