Constitutional amendment: What should lawmakers do with excess general fund revenues?

Hawaii State Capitol
Hawaii State Capitol

There are two proposed amendments to the State Constitution and one of them relates to the disposition of excess revenues.

After Tuesday, we will know if Hawaii voters decided if they wanted to add alternatives for what do to with excess general fund revenues.

On the ballot this election year is whether or not alternatives should be added when the state general fund balance exceeds five per cent of the general fund revenues after two fiscal years.

CON AMEND: Relating to the Disposition of Excess Revenues (click here for more information)

Shall the legislature be provided, when the state general fund balance at the close of each of two successive fiscal years exceeds five per cent of the general fund revenues for each of the two fiscal years, the additional alternatives of appropriating general funds for the pre-payment of either or both of the following:

  1. Debt service for general obligation bonds issued by the State; or
  2. Pension or other post-employment benefit liabilities accrued for state employees?

Jill Tokuda, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said “this would provide the Legislature with the option — whether it’s the state refund, the tax refund — of putting it into the rainy day fund, or this would be a third option, to be able to pay down some of the debt and obligations.

“It’s really just about giving a little flexibility to the state when it has the means,” she added.

So here’s how it breaks down: A “yes” vote means it allows the appropriation of general funds for the pre-payment of general obligation bond debt service or pension or other post-employment benefit liabilities. Basically, lawmakers will have more options on how to dispose of excess money.

A “no” vote means no changes happen.

Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said that “the measure provision that is there, it doesn’t work. Other legislatures have found ways around it anyway, so the question becomes, can we make (lawmakers) do better things with it rather than keep it in the general fund for it to go anywhere? The legislature would decide what to do with the excess funds and this proposal gives the state options on what it can do with that money.”

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