It’s one of the things our governors and state lawmakers have been very good at in the tough years of the Iraq War, the 2008 recession, and now with the Covid pandemic: kick that unfunded liabilities can further down the road.

Gov. David Ige is using mainly guesswork about revenue for his 2021 supplemental budget. There will be at least a 10% drop in revenue, but quite likely 20-30%.

We’ll surely be at least a billion dollars short of what’s needed if all essentials are covered and IF we paid into that under-funded pot for government employee pensions and post-retirement medical coverage. Ige’s already talking about just doing basic services and skipping those retirement down payments.

And god knows what our recent spike in new Covid infections will bring on: maybe restaurant closings? maybe mall closings? maybe more unemployment requiring more unemployment payouts? maybe a HUGE revenue drop? The state says it must raise the unemployment,ployment insurance tax. Understandable. But I fear that will only drive more employers to hire more part-timers to avoid other costs such as medical insurance, and more “independent contractors” (like me when I was still writing for MidWeek) who do not qualify for any benefits — not even unemployment compensation under normal, non-pandemic conditions where the feds have not intervened.

My preference would be a national unemployment program covering all gainfully employed and then dis-employed, and funded by moves such as killing Trump’s duplicative Space Force and trimming way back both foreign aid, forces stationed other countries, and some of our enormous contributions to the UN and World Bank. We can’t be bankers to the world.

Meanwhile, the previously-approved state $15.6 billion supplemental  budget for fiscal 2021  is out the window. Also out in Ige’s latest budget are $1 billion for state employee pensions and $1.1 billion for their future medical coverages. But the requirement that those pensions and medical plans be available does not go away. Your kids and grandkids will have to cough up the money and skip some other things.

And I find it laughable that the state is talking about $350 million for a new stadium for the UH to use to play football. You know it would not be built on time and on budget. And right now we’re facing almost an $8 million bill if we just patch up the current one to barely-useable/temporary status. Check out this UH deficit:

Also laughable: exploring a hike in some state taxes. People are unemployed. Businesses are dying. We’re in the midst of an e-commerce revolution. This is a time to scale back services and furlough some public employees, not raise taxes.

If you don’t know, the state is more than $26 billion short of the estimated coming cost of paying promised money and medical coverage for state pensioners. $14 billion of that just the pension payouts. Some gets covered by a good stock market performance. But some would be lost if we have another recession.

IF we paid what due now and in the next few years, it would sap nearly half of the total state budget!

So — kick the can down the road and hope for a great stock market, a great economic recovery and some federal help.

That’s iffy.

Of course, Ige could pay up by furloughing some state workers this year and cutting back their paychecks. We all know that’s not going to happen. Well, maybe minimal furloughs if things get extra rough, but surely no pay cuts.

if the state and counties go back to paying only the premium on public worker health plans, the date when the plan would reach full funding would likely be 2050.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when the can Ige just kicked reaches this year’s Legislature, which can add its own kicks.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

One reply on “It’s “Kick The Can” Time Again In Hawaii”

  1. OK, don’t fret, there are a number of bills to be proposed to increase revenue. Let look.

    10. Land Use Department reality show. Takes place on another planet.

    9. Annex Las Vegas.

    8. Pitch Trump library. Won’t take any space and rotten food can be sold to hurl at statues.

    7. Haiku stairs…Escalator to Heaven / Skateboard Drop to Hell.

    6. Interisland ziplines.

    5. New industry…Pineapple skin leather.

    4. Blowhole thrill rides.

    3. For the agri-tourist sector…Parker Ranch cattle inseminations.

    2. Legalize shrimp fighting.

    1. In effort to adapt a more aggressive posture, Ige to rock full neck tattoo.

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