By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — Environmental advocates are urging the Hawaii Legislature to help preserve Hawaii’s water by increasing taxes on high-end property sales.
The House Committee on Water and Land gave approval to a bill Monday that increases the conveyance tax on property worth $2 million or more and marks the funds for water protection and other natural resources.
State Department of Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila says the bill is the top priority for his department this session.
He said the state needs to act now to preserve Hawaii’s limited water resources. Aila said the state has lost a significant amount of water because of forest loss.
The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Maui Invasive Species Committee and other environmental groups are also pushing for the bill.
But lawmakers questioned the necessity and effectiveness of the proposed tax increase.
“It’s kind of a nickel and dime approach to an important issue,” Rep. Ty Cullen said.
The Democrat asked Aila about alternative ways to fund watershed protections.
Aila said he believes that increasing the conveyance tax is the best option.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Hawaii Association of Realtors oppose the bill.
Myoung Oh, representing the organization of realtors, said the tax would make it even more expensive to do business in Hawaii.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said during the State of the State address that he supports the initiative.
The governor said that the tax could generate about $10 million for watershed protection.
He urged the Hawaii Legislature to take action on the issue, saying that waiting to act would cost more in the long run.
The bill now moves to the finance and housing committees.