The Honolulu City Council this morning voted 7-0 to approve Bill 35, giving Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his successors the ability to tap rainy day funds to battle the effects of the coronavirus.
There’s currently $120 million in what’s formally known as the fiscal stability fund.
The law now says the fund can only be used when certain, clearly defined economic or revenue conditions are triggered, or if the governor or president declares a state of emergency due to a natural disaster.
The triggers listed in the ordinance: a 2% increase in unemployment over three fiscal quarters; a 2% drop in total net taxable real property from the preceding year; a 2% decline in general fund and highway fund revenues from the previous year; a 5% decline in hotel room tax revenues from the preceding year; or an increase of 5% (of the previous year’s revenues) in nondiscretionary expenditures.
The Council fast-tracked the bill, giving it first reading approval last Friday, second reading OK Monday, and the final vote today.
An amendment passed by the Council says: it’s only allowed if the governor declares an emergency; the admin must report to the Council how money from the fund was spent; and the admin is not allowed to spend fund money for the rail project.
City Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi insisted that city agencies are to use unexpended funds, or reprioritize their funds, to make purchases of emergency gear or pay for any other pandemic-related costs. “I don’t foresee us needing to tap the funds right now,” Koyanagi said.
Council members Brandon Elefante and Ron Menor were absent and excused from today’s meeting.