Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.
Q: I have noticed there are major price differences between the islands concerning gas prices, with Maui always the highest. Average price per gallon of gas are as follows: Hilo’s is $4.06; Oahu is $4.14; and Maui is $4.40. The difference ranges from $.34 to $.26. Begs the question of why are Maui’s gas prices so high? I will assume the difference in fuel
prices would be the amount of taxes Maui adds to a gallon of gas. What is Maui doing with the extra fuel tax funds they collect, over what the other islands collect? Can you please provide an accounting of what Maui County does with its fuel taxes? Are our roads in better shape than the other islands, concerning the state of repair?
A: Yes, historically there have been pricing gaps between the various counties, but according to data provided by the State Dept. of Taxation, the current gas tax rates are not to blame. Maui County’s gasoline and diesel oil tax has been consistent at sixteen cents per gallon, which is lower than all other Counties except Hawaii County. In fact, Kauai’s tax rate increased to $.17/gallon this past July; Oahu’s rate is holding steady at $.165/gallon. Hawaii County drivers pay $.08/gallon in gas and diesel tax. All drivers throughout the state pay an additional $.17/gallon in State gas/diesel taxes, but drivers filling their tanks with biodiesel pay just $.04/gallon in State taxes and no County fuel taxes except in Honolulu. Our fuel taxes are allocated to the County’s Highway Fund, which helps pay for the repair and maintenance of our roads, traffic lights and other expenses as they pertain to the administration of County roads. This gas tax rate of $0.16 per gallon has not changed since my administration took office; however, fuel prices are notorious for fluctuating on a weekly or even daily basis. There are numerous other market factors that may contribute to the variations in gas prices on the different islands, but it appears from the official tax table that gasoline and diesel taxes are not the culprit.
Q: Is there anything you can do to help get a mandatory helmet law passed? There have been a few fatal motorcycle accidents recently and it’s always reported that none of the motorcyclists who died were wearing helmets. I feel like so many lives could have been saved if there had just been a law put in place requiring all motorcyclists to protect their heads. Thank you.
A: Thank you for your inquiry. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), an unhelmeted motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than a helmeted motorcyclist when involved in a crash. NHSTA also estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent. Currently there are only 19 states that have a mandatory helmet law, while 29 states have partial helmet laws. The latter includes Hawaii—which requires riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets. Our state had previously adopted a mandatory helmet law in 1968, which at the time specified that “No person shall: (1) Operate a motorcycle or motor scooter on any highway in the State unless he and any passenger he carries on the motorcycle or motor scooter wears (A) a safety helmet securely fastened with a chin strap” (HRS § 286-81). This law was repealed in 1977 and has not made it through legislature ever since, though numerous legislators have tried to get a helmet law reinstated over the years. Revisions to Hawaii Statutes are made at the State level, which means I have no direct influence on the passage of a new helmet law. However, I will be forwarding your inquiry to the State legislature and encourage anyone who feels strongly about this issue to contact their district’s State legislators to make them aware of your concerns. You can find a list of legislators and their contact information at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov; click on the “Legislators” icon.
Q: I wrote a few months ago about the poor condition of Upper Kimo Drive in Kula while it was undergoing waterline work. The work has now been completed for over a month and the road has not been repaired, paved or otherwise touched by the County. It remains a gravel-filled, pseudo off-road nightmare. What does it take to get our neighborhood access road returned to a “normal” state? Just curious, everyone who lives up here is…
A: The post-waterline construction repaving of Upper Kimo Drive is scheduled to begin next week. The waterline replacement project had been delayed by bad weather, which meant that the contractor had to begin working on another project that had already been scheduled. In the meantime, residents such as yourself who use Upper Kimo Drive on a
regular basis were upset about the condition of the road. Thankfully, the contractor has worked closely with our staff to get the repaving project back on track, and we were able to coordinate the work without losing funding for the project. Barring any further weather delays or other unforeseen circumstances, the repaving should begin as scheduled the week of October 13-17.
Want to Ask the Mayor?
Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email:AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.