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Abercrombie signs bills to repay $100M to hurricane, reserve funds

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 05:54 p.m. HST, Jul 03, 2013

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed bills to repay $100 million to the state's hurricane and emergency reserves and set plans to fully fund future health benefits for state employees.

Abercrombie said Hawaii is no longer a "pay-as-you-go" state.

The bill to pay unfunded liabilities requires an actuary to determine the amount Hawaii pays toward employer contributions starting in fiscal 2018-2019. The payments will phase in starting next year.

The bill also supplements deficient payments of county governments toward future employee health benefits using general excise or hotel taxes.

Abercrombie said better fiscal management will help Hawaii's reputation in the eyes of financial institutions and others who invest here.

The plan would prevent Hawaii from turning to bookkeeping tricks and other measures to make it seem like the state is in better financial shape, Abercrombie said.

"No tricks, no smoke, no mirrors. This is the real thing," he said. "We've ended all those practices and we're going to make our payments on time and in amounts that show we're serious."

The state borrowed from the reserve funds to help sustain Hawaii through the Great Recession, which particularly hurt tourism and construction, leading to job losses and less tax revenue for the state. That led to furloughs and pay cuts for state workers, along with hiring freezes.

The Legislature in 2011 set payments to replenish the funds; the laws signed today accelerate that.

Finance Director Kalbert Young says the payments will help Hawaii compare favorably with other state governments.

"It provides proof to the pudding that we are willing and have demonstrated fortitude to commit to addressing those financial shortfalls," Young said.

As of July 1, liabilities on future health benefits for state and county employees are $18.9 billion, Abercrombie said.

"We're not talking about chump change here. We're talking about serious numbers," he said.

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hikine wrote:
The main purpose of raiding the fund was to settle the teachers' strike. Is the State also going to pay interest for the supposedly 'borrowed' monies? And with all the rhetoric of the State having financial problems, all of the sudden as if magic the money is there! Something's amiss.
on July 3,2013 | 07:00PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
$18,900,000,000 in unfunded liabilities. Obligations. Promises made that must be kept.

At $100,000,000 a year (which we really don't have) it will take 189 years to repay not counting interest.

Do you really think the State can commit to 189 years of anything except excess spending?

on July 3,2013 | 07:23PM
WEATHER wrote:
The plan would prevent Hawaii from turning to bookkeeping tricks and other measures to make it seem like the state is in better financial shape, Abercrombie said. If you believe that any politician, especially one that raided both of the state's "insurance policies", has signed anything into law that will prevent them from use bookkeeping tricks in the future, you deserve what you get. But, as Maneki_Neko says, only for the next 189 years? But the repayments to the health fund liabilities don't start until 2018-2019, the last year of a second term in office if reelected. Let's revisit this commitment then and see if we're really no longer a "pay as you go" state.
on July 4,2013 | 02:39AM
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