Hawaii excise tax revenues grow; Council on Revenues sees more growth ahead

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two months into the current fiscal year, Hawaii state tax revenues are running 4.7% higher than at the same time last year, and the latest official state forecast calls for 10% annual revenue growth.

The state Department of Taxation said Wednesday that general excise tax revenues in August topped $200 million, and the total was up 2.2% from August 2009, a sign of consumer and business confidence since the GET attaches to most sales transactions made in the state.

The Council on Revenues, a panel of government, academic and private sector economists, met Wednesday and predicted 10% growth in overall state tax revenues for the 12-month budget cycle from last July 1 to next June 30.

The council forecast is the official basis for the state budget, which is required by the state constitution to be balanced, even if unforeseen events later produce a different result.

The forecast does not automatically mean the state budget will reflect 10% more spending: Governor. Lingle and the Hawaii Legislature avoided deeper cuts last spring by delaying millions in tax refunds beyond June 30 into the new budget year. This means the state general fund is actually down 22.8% from the same time last year, despite more revenue coming in.

But if the forecast turns out to be correct, there may at least be no further cutbacks to state government in Lingle's final budget submission to the legislature.

Hawaii economists expect a slow recovery that will take years to regain the employment levels of 2007, but even current unemployment is lower than the mainland average, and summer tourism has been stronger than many forecasts.

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