Hawaii Makes Significant Gains to Rebuild Financial Reserves
News Release from Office of the Governor July 3, 2013
With the signing of three bills, the State of Hawaii committed to making good on its past and future obligations. Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed several measures related to fiscal management that appropriate a combined $100 million to increase fiscal reserves and create a new statutory requirement to address long-term unfunded liabilities.
“Today, we are officially no longer a ‘pay as you go’ state,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “The Legislature has joined this administration with the goal of moving our state on a path to deal with long-term unfunded liabilities that have gone unaddressed for decades.
Proposed as part of the Governor’s legislative package, SB1092 (Making an Appropriation to Recapitalize the Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund) and SB1094 (Making an Appropriation to the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund) direct a total of $100 million in general funds for fiscal year 2013-2014 toward paying back borrowed money from the state’s Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund and “Rainy Day Fund.” Each fund is appropriated $50 million.
HB546 (Relating to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund)requires the state’s annual employer contribution to equal the amount determined by an actuary beginning in fiscal year 2018-2019. The bill also holds the state and county governments accountable for said contribution by supplementing deficient payments with the General Excise Tax or Transient Accommodations Tax. It further establishes a phase-in schedule (beginning fiscal year 2014-2015) and a task force to examine the unfunded liability.
“This is a game changer; Hawaii will be the only state in the country where governmental employers have a statutorily required mandated funding course toward 100 percent pre-funding for post employment benefit liabilities,” said Finance Director Kalbert Young. “This is a clear message to financial institutions that the State of Hawaii takes very seriously building its financial capabilities to meet all of its financial obligations.”
Governor Signs Bills Related to Energy and Technology
Focusing on two of his administration’s priority issues, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed several bills that advance Hawaii’s energy and technology goals.
Upon enacting four measures related to energy, Gov. Abercrombie stated: “We are removing unnecessary barriers to allow a greater segment of our community to invest in and benefit from renewable energy. These bills also improve the efficiency of the industry’s registration and reporting process, while encouraging greater openness and expanding protections for our local communities.”
HB811 (Relating to Energy Information Reporting) simplifies the registration and reporting process for fuel distributors. Part of the Governor’s legislative package, the bill also amends Public Utilities Commission (PUC) responsibilities and powers in relation to energy industry information reporting and allows the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to receive energy industry information.
HB1405 (Relating to the Public Utilities Commission) requires the PUC to include a summary of the power purchase agreements in effect during the fiscal year in its annual report to the Governor. It also expands the use of the public benefits fee to support clean energy technology, demand response technology, energy use reduction, and demand-side management infrastructure.
SB19 (Relating to Renewable Energy) removes barriers for landlords to invest in renewable energy and allows renters/tenants to benefit from lower energy costs. The bill exempts landlords and lessors who install renewable energy systems on their property and provide, sell or transmit electricity generated from those systems to tenants or lessees.
HB1149 (Relating to Wind Energy Facilities) requires a wind energy facility owner to be responsible for facility decommissioning and provide evidence of financial security unless the owner has an existing lease or other agreement that provides for decommissioning. The bill establishes standards and assurances of adequate financial resources to avoid abandoned or neglected wind energy facilities.
Regarding three of the bills related to technology, the Governor said: “Technology is ever-changing, and state government needs to change with it. An open government helps citizens be engaged in their government and further promotes government accountability and transparency.”
HB632 (Relating to Open Data) requires state departments to make electronic data sets available to the public. The bill also requires the chief information officer (CIO) to develop policies and procedures to implement the Open Data Initiative, and appropriates $100,000 each fiscal year of the biennium to Office of Information Practices (OIP).
HB635 (Relating to Broadband) requires the state and counties to take action in advancing the Hawaii Broadband Initiative within 60 days (for conservation districts, the state must take action within 145 days). The initiative’s goal is to provide ultra high-speed Internet access by 2018, and this clear and decisive timeline will reduce uncertainty for broadband companies and serve as an incentive to invest in increased bandwidth.
SB1003 (Relating to Information Technology), another of the administration’s bills, authorizes the CIO to conduct security audits and direct remedial actions, as necessary, in the management of the state’s cyber security.
“As these resources come online, cyber security will become even more critical, and these measures include steps to further secure the people’s data,” the Governor added.