Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle on Thursday vetoed legislation that would raise the hotel room tax across the state.
The measure was one of several tax increases the state legislature passed on April 22 in an effort to offset an unprecedented $2 billion shortfall in tax revenue.
Lingle has maintained a firm stance against raising taxes: The Republican governor also vetoed bills that would increase taxes on higher-income residents and a conveyance tax on real estate purchases over $2 million.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported May 8 that the Democrat-controlled legislature had extended its session in order to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.
The newspaper quoted House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa as saying they were confident they had enough votes to do so.
The hotel tax currently stands at 7.25% per day. The legislation Lingle vetoed would increased that rate to 8.25% in July and then to 9.25% in July 2010.
At a press conference earlier in the week, Lingle expressed frustration with state legislators.
"The actions they took and the actions they didn't take, taken together, will prolong our economic recovery," she said. "It will make it harder for the state of Hawaii to get our economy back on track, it will cause unemployment to rise, it will cause more businesses to fail, more families to be in dire straits.
"They've also damaged our No. 1 industry, the one we need the most to come back in order to succeed in our economic recovery, and that's the visitor industry," Lingle said.
By raising taxes on that industry, they have taken steps to make it harder for tourism to recover, and everyone in the industry has told them that and continues to write to them. I'm getting copies of letters from leaders in the industry supporting me vetoing this tax measure on the hotel industry.”
When asked for a comment about Lingle's plan to veto the hotel tax increase he helped to pass, Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D-39th District), chairman of the Hawaii state House Finance Committee, said, "If she opposes the increases, then she will have to come forward with her own revenue-raising options and how she's going to address the $2 billion shortfall."