Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Budget Woes by grassroothawaii
March 15, 2011, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

by Frances Nuar

It seems every day there is a new article about the woeful state of Hawaii’s finances. Today the Civil Beat reported some more dismal facts on the state economy, including a state shortfall of $128 million (80% more than the $70 million shortfall originally projected) and for the upcoming biennium, a deficit approaching $1 billion.  I wish the news gets better, but it doesn’t:

“We have to get through this first budget year first before we can even think about the upcoming biennium,” Young said. “We did have a strategy when the deficit was at $70 million, so to now take it to $128 million, the options are very much limited … For the current year, it’ll revolve around looking at special funds or curtailing program expenditures, but even that would be very limited because the current state of state operations — the state isn’t even providing basic, minimal services — is not at optimal levels.”

The largest of these so-called special funds include the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which has about $46 million sitting in it, and the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, which has a balance of about $117 million. Lawmakers dipped into these emergency funds last year as well, taking $67 million from the hurricane fund to eliminate teacher furloughs and $24 million from the rainy day fund.

Abercrombie had previously said he wanted to hold that reserve money in case it was needed for the upcoming two-year budget.

House lawmakers have already approved a measure — House Bill 1043 — which would transfer $42 million (“or so much thereof as may be necessary”) from the hurricane fund into the state’s general fund for “fiscal 2011-2012.”

In the Senate, lawmakers recently approved a bill — Senate Bill 120 — that would repeal 16 special funds (including the community college and UH-Hilo bookstore revolving fund and the Sen. Hiram L. Fong scholarship endowment trust) and take some money from another 23 special funds (including the energy security special fund and the geospatial information and data integration special fund). The bill initially would have raided 138 of the state’s special funds to help address the shortfall. The latest version does not specify how much money would be diverted.


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