Governor Approves Hurricane Relief Fund Raid

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today authorized a $42 million raid from Hawaii’s Hurricane Relief Trust Fund. SB 1270 CD1, which he signed today as Act 62, appropriates $42 million from the Hurricane Reserve Fund to the General Fund for the purpose of balancing the state budget in fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30, 2011.

The law authorizes the governor to transfer additional monies from the trust fund to the general fund for the purpose of balancing the budget in fiscal 2011 and establishes a mechanism for the automatic replenishment of the trust fund from general excise tax revenues in fiscal years 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015. The law also authorizes the issuance of revenue bonds by the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund to maintain a $75 million balance in the trust fund.

The fund was established after Hurricane Iniki devastated many parts of Kauai and Oahu in 1992, and the mainland states were hit with severe hurricanes as well, leading to the withdraw of the state’s private insurance companies from the islands.

The state created the trust fund, via payments by those Hawaii homeowners required to have insurance, to provide for reinsurance. However, the fund was never used.

The state legislature over the years eyed the growing balance in the fund and like so many special funds, prepared to transfer or raid funds into the state General Fund.

Pleas to return funds to premium holders who had paid into the fund were totally ignored. The Hawaii Realtors Association and others lobbied to maintain the fund for the next expected hurricane. However, several years ago, the legislature began raiding the interest in the fund to pay for various social and other programs, and then took significant amounts of the fund last year and this year to balance the state budget.

Hawaii’s hurricane season starts June 1, 2011, and all experts say it is not “if” another devastating hurricane hits Hawaii but “when.”

Commissioners Can Get Back to Work

The state’s Reapportionment Commission can get to work.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency appropriation Tuesday for $664,000 so the commission can pay its staff and purchase software that can help redraw the district lines with just the click of a computer mouse.

In the past, commissioners have had to use paper maps, hand drawn lines and mathematic formulas to redraw the political district lines for Hawaii’s congressional and state House and Senate seats. The U.S. Constitution requires all states to reapportion districts every 10 years based upon population changes in the U.S. Census.

Commissioners at their meeting last week expressed concern that they are facing an August deadline to submit their initial plan and yet had no funding to purchase the software to complete the job.

Hawaii’s Homeless Population is Growing

The state has released its latest estimate on Hawaii’s growing homeless population.

Hawaii’s homeless population on January 25, 2011 was 6188. That is 6.1 percent higher than the 2010 estimate of 5,834 on the same date. Around 3,632 are in homeless shelters and another 2,556 are in unsheltered locations, the state reports.

The information is gathered during the last week in January with the help of service organizations and individual volunteers who take surveys of homeless individuals and families.

The “Statewide Homeless Point-In-Time (PIT) Count” is then reported through the state Department of Human Services Homeless Programs Office and the City & County of Honolulu Department of Community of Services.

“The data contained in the report are the product of a statistically reliable, unduplicated count of homeless persons in sheltered or unsheltered locations on a single day, January 25, 2011. Similar Homeless Point- In-Time Counts were conducted throughout the nation at the same time using methodology approved by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” the state said in a statement.

The complete report is on the DHS website at: www.hawaii.gov/dhs/main/reports

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