Hawaii May Impose Green Tax on Visitors

Hawaii Governor puts forward a call to charge visitors a “climate impact fee”

Hawaii’s governor, Josh Green, has proposed a $25 climate tax on tourists to protect the state’s natural resources from the influx of visitors. The bill, HB206, would be collected when visitors check into a hotel or short-term rental. 

Citing the growing impacts of global warming, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said that he will jumpstart efforts to enact a climate impact fee on tourists.

Green called it a “modest” fee that was “far less than the resort fees or other taxes visitors have paid for years.” He estimated it would generate more than $68 million every year for the state’s use.

“We would invest these funds in beach preservation, fire breaks and other prevention measures to help us avoid tragedies like the one last year in Maui,” Green said in his State of the State address delivered to Hawaii lawmakers and invited guests at the State Capitol.

The state would use the funds to create a “special fund to prevent climate crises and more effectively respond to climate crises when they occur”. The state believes a green fee could generate close to $70 million each year, which could make a major impact on restoration projects. The funds would fund land and water protection and stewardship projects that would improve the state’s ability to care for its unique and fragile resources.

At a press conference following the State of the State, House Speaker Scott Saiki and Finance Committee Chair Kyle Yamashita said they would consider Green’s visitor fee. It could include the possibility of increasing the state’s transient accommodations tax, which currently is 10.25%, rather than charging a $25 fee.

“I think in concept we kind of are in agreement that there should be something that people pay into” when they are impacting the state, said Yamashita, who represents part of Maui. “And it should come from people from outside the state.”

Saiki cautioned that any increase to the TAT would need to be justified. He also pointed out that the Legislature approved funding last year for an app that would be used to inventory visitor use of state parks, trails and beaches.

The app, which is being developed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), “could then be segued into assessing some kind of a use fee on visitors,” he said.

Still, the speaker said there is broad agreement to work together in the state’s best interest.

Any thoughts, opinions, or news? Please share them with me at vince@meetingsevents.com.

Photo by Darren Lawrence on Unsplash

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