Budget surplus on shaky ground
The Sunday edition of West Hawaii Today and no doubt other papers across the state, carried a pretty full-page color ad of Gov. Neil Abercrombie bragging about the $844 million dollar state surplus. That money is burning a hole in his pocket and the governor is looking for ways to spend this surplus while rewarding supporters and friends. He’ll be pushing prekindergarten public education and housing development policies that no doubt look good to certain voters and his public union buddies alike.
But according to a study just released by George Mason University, Hawaii’s fiscal condition comes in at 43rd out of 50 states. This familiar conclusion (Hawaii’s bottom tier status) was based on 11 criteria and unfortunately paints a completely different fiscal scenario. Some of the measuring indicators included cash ratios, current assets and liabilities, total revenue over total expenses, long-term liabilities, total taxes and revenues per population, and total expenses per population.
Oh, you can tax the people, create new fees and regulation/revenue requirements until the cows come home, racking up the surpluses so attractive in an election year, but this more in-depth look at each state once again puts us on shaky ground, surplus or no.
Oh sure, the governor hints at reducing Hawaii’s unfunded liabilities, but just like Congress managing a teensy-tiny step forward once in a while, they mostly take multiple giant steps backwards (Congress just ended the sequester and approved a massive $1.1 trillion budget). Hawaii’s programs and spending, efficient or not, knows no end. County mayors are again asking to raise the general excise tax bite. Hawaii needs to get serious about the $25 billion elephant in the room, namely the unfunded state retirement system and public union employees’ medical care.
And while the Hawaii Health Connector data did not figure into the above mentioned study, the Legislature has been informed by the state’s IT director, the human service director and from Kaiser and HMSA that the program is not sustainable and the state should consider taking it over as a state agency. Can you hear that sucking sound? According to hawaiireporter.com, this is after the state already spent $10,000 per person registered on HHC.
Governor, it’s not so rosy after all.
Michelle “Mike” Kerr