Hawaii designated one of 13 "turkey states" by Truth in Accounting
Hawaii designated one of 13 “turkey states” by Truth in Accounting

Turkeys may be the best thing on the Thanksgiving table, but they aren’t the smartest bird in the tree.

A new report from Truth in Accounting’s State Data Lab names Hawaii one of 13 “Turkey States” because the state spent more money than it received and racked up more debt for future taxpayers.

But that’s nothing new. Every year since 2008, Hawaii has spent more than it takes in, according to Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting. (See Hawaii ‘Net Revenue’ 2005-2012).

“State budgeting practices lack truthfulness, timeliness and transparency, allowing elected officials to claim they ‘balance’ the budget, while actually over-spending yearly income,” Weinberg said.

“In addition to yearly spending deficits, Hawaii’s pension and retirement health obligations have grown from $12.8 billion in 2009 to $20.45 billion in 2012.  Future Hawaii taxpayers may inherit a large ‘credit card’ balance, even though they did not enjoy today’s services on the tab.”

Hawaii joins New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California and Delaware on the turkey list.

Kalbert Young, director of the Hawaii Department of Budget & Finance, said it is all how you look at the numbers.

In fiscal year 2012, Hawaii’s general fund revenue was $5.6 billion compared to actual expenditures of $5.51 billion, with a positive ending balance of 275 million dollars, Young said.

However, the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, said total revenue was $8.25 billion verses the total expenses of $8.78 billion, for a negative balance of $529.9 million, Young said.

“The biggest difference is going to be inclusion of accrual items that are not present on a pure cash basis, such as what the budget and fiscal execution of the budget is based on,” Young said. “The big one is the accrual of unfunded liabilities, or the Annual Required Payments towards (other post-employment benefits). Also, Statement of Net Assets also includes such typical business items as depreciation and accrued payroll.”