Danny de Gracia II and Kyle Shiroma
Hawaii’s taxpayers might be shocked to discover that while numerous voices in and out of the local political establishment are calling for an increase in the General Excise Tax to cover any future budget shortfalls in education or other state services, upwards of $1.4 billion dollars in unspent excess funds may be sitting in special funds, several of which were tagged by the auditor almost a decade ago for repeal.
According to the Department of Budget and Finance’s “Reports on Non-General Fund Information: Fiscal Years 2006-2012,” some 186 special funds spread across twenty different departments hold an estimated $1,412,357,203 in unspent revenues over and above their operational requirements. In plain language, if the estimates provided by the Department are correct, the state has more than just pocket change stuck in its seats.
Until recently, few members of the public were aware of how many special funds existed, what their purpose was or how much money the State of Hawaii was holding in these accounts. For this reason, Grassroot Institute analysts decided to review the Department’s worksheets and itemize all the special funds to see just what they contained.
The Department of Transportation is reported as having $582,449,161 in unspent special funds (41% of the state’s excess balances), Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has some $327,412,159 unspent (23%) and the University of Hawaii holds another $119,225,732 (8%) making them the top holders of excess revenues.
The worksheets show figures such as $6,968,895 unspent in the Works of Art Special Fund (AGS 881) for public aesthetics and art education – a fund which was advised by the Auditor to be repealed in 2001 and its balances lapsed into the General Fund – and on the opposite end of the spectrum, zero balances in the Agricultural Park Special Fund Escrow Account (AGR 141HA) which also continues to exist despite a recommendation for repeal.
Why should taxpayers approve an increase of taxes to balance the budget when the state’s own reports show over $1.4 billion in excess sitting in their accounts collecting interest? If these excess balances were divided equally among the population, there would be checks of close to $1,100 going to every man, woman and child in Hawaii.
Before the State looks for more money, it needs to make effective use of its existing funds and show more transparency in its records. Hawaii’s taxpayers can ill afford more government, more taxes and no questions asked.
To read the full report on this issue, visit this page. Danny de Gracia holds a master’s degree in political science and is a member of the Grassroot Institute Board of Scholars. Kyle Shiroma is a summer intern with Grassroot Institute.