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TAT to Help Preserve Turtle Bay Land

The 2014 Hawaii State Legislature recently passed H.B.2434 H.D.2 S.D.2 C.D.1, which would allow for the use of the visitor Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) to acquire a conservation easement in Turtle Bay on Oahu’s North Shore. 
“This is a historic, innovative, creative and financially sound example of responsible and sustainable tourism,” said Mike McCartney, HTA president and CEO. “One of our goals is to help protect our natural resources and balance the needs of our community and industry, and this milestone decision will help us to accomplish both of these priorities.” 
The bill enables the HTA to refinance its Hawaii Convention Center debt and use the additional savings revenue to acquire the conservation easement at Turtle Bay. The measure specifically: 
  • Requires the HTA to obtain an appraisal and perform due diligence on the proposed conservation easement and property rights; 
  • Authorizes the HTA to issue $40-million in revenue bonds and to use those proceeds to acquire conservation easement for lands at Turtle Bay on Oahu; 
  • Establishes the Turtle Bay conservation easement special fund;
  • Annually allocates transient accommodations tax revenues of $3-milion to the Turtle Bay conservation easement special fund for the HTA to fund the debt service on the revenue bonds; 
  • Reduces the TAT revenue allocation to the convention center enterprise special fund from $33-million to $26.5-million. 
  • Provides an additional $3.5-million in TAT revenue to the general fund; 
  • Requires the HTA and the Department of Budget and Finance to restructure the convention center debt owed to the Department of Budget and Finance to accommodate an annual payment of not more than $16.5-million; 
  • Establishes that if the debt restructuring cannot be achieved in accordance with certain financial benchmarks, then no moneys shall be expended; and 
  • Inserts a provision that declares that the provisions of the measure are not severable. 
By utilizing visitor-funded revenues, H.B. 2434 will also help to conserve the State’s limited Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budget, which is used for renovations, repairs and major maintenance to existing facilities, landscape improvements, new construction, land acquisition and utility modifications to state facilities including schools and public buildings. 
“We would like to commend the leadership of the State Senate and House of Representatives for their commitment to this effort and hard work in making this a reality. Through this collective effort, we will be able to preserve Turtle Bay for both residents and visitors to enjoy,” added McCartney. 

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