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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 3, 2003

Extra fee to register auto is linked to ambulances

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Hawai'i residents would pay an extra fee for motor vehicle registration to help pay for additional emergency medical services statewide, under a bill approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday.

Yesterday was Day 45 of the 60-day session.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Manoa, McCully), did not specify the amount of the proposed fee increase, but said he was considering raising the fee by $5 to $10. A $10 fee increase is estimated to raise about $9 million annually.

The extra money would go into a special fund to help pay for additional emergency medical programs, including emergency aeromedical services and ambulance services in Wai'anae and on parts of Maui and the Big Island, said Vice Chairman Russell Kokubun, D-2nd (S. Hilo, Puna, Ka'u).

The committee approved the bill by a 10-3 vote that fell along party lines. Republicans voted against it, saying they can see the need for more emergency medical services but the state should not burden motorists with extra fees.

Paramedics and other medical officials submitted testimony generally supporting the measure, saying the state needs more emergency medical services.

Sen. Russell Kokubun said extra money would help pay for additional emergency medical programs.

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Jane Greenwood, a Honolulu paramedic for 10 years, said O'ahu is in dire need of another ambulance. She said she is based on Young Street in Honolulu but recently had to respond to a call in Makaha because other ambulances were busy. It took 35 minutes to get there, she said.

Greenwood said the 16 ambulances on O'ahu handled 61,000 emergency calls last year.

State Budget Director Georgina Kawamura said in written testimony that the administration opposes the bill because imposing new fees "is inconsistent with the goal of relieving Hawai'i residents from the burden of increased taxes."

She also said there is no clear link between motor vehicle registration fees and an emergency medical services fund, so such services should be paid for through the regular appropriations process.

Jim Stone, representing Catrala-Hawaii, a car and truck rental association, said new fees would be yet another expense for businesses, which would pass the cost on to consumers.

Kokubun and other supporters of the bill say it would make sense to charge the added fee for emergency medical services because severe auto accidents require such services.

The Senate's draft of House Bill 1182 now goes to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.