NOTE: After this post, the Hawai'i Legislature took the stance that this fee might be better collected statewide and used for projects on the state's priority list (read, "not Maui")

Maui Jeep Rental

We love visiting Hawai'i -- in fact, one of our team members is en route to Kona at the moment! Due to the remote nature of Hawai'i, we know a few important facts -- paradise is not cheap for residents, less cheap for visitors, and about to become even more expensive for visitors to the County of Maui, Hawai'i. Just how much more expensive? There's a proposed new transportation-related fee of $4.50 per day on all rental cars, without a decrease in any other existing rental car taxes! The goal is to pay for highway improvements but the plan requires no new contributions from those who own and operate cars in the County of Maui. Just as in many other regions, fleecing tourists is an increasingly popular section of the basic government playbook and the County of Maui appears happy to oblige via the State Legislature.

The Maui News has a remarkable article that includes various tourist-unfriendly statements in this desire to fleece tourists and not inconvenience voters. These are projects the locals also want -- such as the north connector of the Lahaina bypass and the realignment of Honoapiilani Highway -- that aren't high enough on the state's priority list. The reason there is a shortfall in revenue is that gas taxes, vehicle weight, and registration fees have remained relatively flat; there is effectively the same number of vehicles on the road. The Governor's Plan involves adding to gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, which would spread the burden across all users of the roadways (locals as well as renters), not just rental car users. West Maui representative Angus McKelvey isn't hearing any of that "share the burden" noise:

“That will never fly in the Legislature, to just continue to dogpile on our local residents when you have all of these rental cars,” McKelvey said.

Tell us how you really feel about intentionally abusing tourists in rental cars, Angus! So the current goal -- if Angus and others get their way -- would be to tax the 20,000 rental cars in Maui County (or at least, those cars rented at Kahului Airport) to the point that the 160,000+ permanent residents of Maui County contribute zero incremental revenue toward their desired highway projects! Angus had even initially proposed making the law statewide "but the numbers just don’t add up for the other Neighbor Islands" (another actual quote). So the current $4.50 per day additional proposal is just for rentals at Kahului Airport (OGG), perhaps for all of Maui County, and maybe even the entire state if others buy into his plan to abuse visitors. 

The worst part? There's already a $3.00 per day statewide highway fee on rental cars!  Plus, renters at OGG pay a $4.50 per day Customer Facility Charge, an 11.1% Concession Recovery Fee (10% of total rental car revenue), and traditional sales tax. Add another $4.50 per day tax to pay for Maui roadways and the tax burden would place OGG on the outsized list as one of the worst-taxed airports in the United States, despite falling outside the list of the top 50 airports. Finding a cheap rental car when there's $12 per day going to roadways and the airport before the actual car cost ($4.50 + $3.00 per day for highways and $4.50 per day going to the airport as a concession recovery fee) won't be a winning battle, but some Hawai'ian representatives wouldn't have it any other way. Obviously, haoles don't get to vote for Hawai'ian representatives!  

Add another $4.50 per day to the existing fees and we would rather just pay tolls on actual use!

There's only one thing clear about the current transportation debate in Maui; whether the Governor's plan passes or McKelvey's plan passes, the cost for a tourist to drive in Maui will increase. The difference between the Governor's plan and McKelvey's? The latter relies upon rental car consumers footing the entire bill. Whether McKelvey's plan passes or not, AutoSlash stands prepared to help you find the lowest possible total rates on your rentals! Just don't be shocked if your taxes on a Hawai'ian vacation exceed the taxes you pay at home each month!

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