We said previously that the $50 Green Fee (named now after Hawaii Governor Josh Green), once called the “Visitor Impact Fee” would be back, and apparently there’s no better time than the present. The name, post tragic Lahaina fire, will be changed.

The last time Governor Green raised the plan for a tourist fee, he found that it was not possible to charge that as broadly as he had hoped. Therefore, before dying in the prior legislature, it morphed into a tax on use of Hawaii state beaches, parks and other facilities only. Green ran for governor on the premise of a visitor tax, with hopes that it would raise hundreds of million per year. “As governor, I will propose a $50 impact fee for visitors.” — Josh Green. He also estimated the fee could raise up to $600 million per year and would reduce the quantity of Hawaii’s “low-end” visitors and “the total number of tourists.”

What became of the first $50 tax on Hawaii visitor arrivals?

The fees were originally to have been assessed via airlines or accommodations. That prospect was deemed likely unconstitutional, among other issues, which resulted in Governor Green pulling back from that methodology.

It was resurrected as a fee on state parks or other facilities. That was vague and problematic and unclear as to whether it would even work. Green wanted to have permits or licenses issued visitors online or through stores. Currently, some of Hawaii’s state parks already have fee systems in place, including Diamond Head State Monument, Hanauma Bay State Park, Wainapanapa State Park, Haena State Park, and Iao Valley State Monument.

Many question Hawaii’s spending of visitor money.

Hawaii is infamous for visitor and resident taxes and fees never reaching intended goals. So the “Green Fee” too may have good intentions but fall into the same trap.

Everyone wonders where the state’s highest accommodation tax in the country goes. That is a tax paid by both visitors and by residents in Hawaii who travel. It isn’t apparent how the money is used given the painfully lacking infrastructure seen from Hawaii parks to airports, and public roads to restrooms.

The situation was made more clear as Beat of Hawaii editors traveled throughout Europe this summer, contrasting various aspects of Hawaii tourism and that of other world-famous idyllic vacation spots. The lack of prioritizing reinvestment in Hawaii’s all-important tourism infrastructure is nothing short of egregious.

Will another “Green Fee” be yet one more turnoff to visitors?

This comes at a time when Maui is in deparate need of the return of visitors following the Lahaina fire.

In thousands of comments on BOH, visitors bemoaned being unfairly charged such a $50 fee as simply adding insult to injury. From our take, Hawaii needs to find better ways to raise money and provide more apparently benefits than it does now.

New $50 fee to benefit firefighting.

Regarding a new direction for the green fee, the governor said “We’re going to need money to make sure we have more firefighters, that we have more equipment, and we have more money for investigations like this.” Again, undoubtedly well-meaning, but will that money actually ever end up benefiting the state with more fire-prevention? Governor Green talked about monies going into a “special fund.” But, based on what we know of Hawaii’s fiscal responsibility, we are sadly discouraged.

Hawaii’s firefighting efforts unquestionably need help.

It came to light that Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t have a state fire marshal. There was one, but that position was eliminated decades ago. Tragically, such an office would be vital coordination of efforts between agencies with responsibilities typically also including fire prevention and investigation efforts.

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