Hawaii's next governor won't have much money to play with

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The next governor might be Neil Abercrombie or it might be Duke Aiona, but whoever it is can't count on having a lot of extra money, economists said Monday.

"I would ask them what are their priorities," said state economist Pearl Imada-Iboshi, who recently was appointed director of the state labor department. "It is very doable to get rid of the furloughs but it probably means they can do little else."

Even that may have to wait for the next fiscal year. The current one, running through next June 30, carries the load of late tax refunds which used up hundreds of millions of dollars, a big enough bill to offset most of any tax revenue rebounding in the current budget year.

A further increase in tax revenue is expected for the next budget cycle, but even that is not an absolutely sure thing, according to Paul Brewbaker, a consulting economist who was the last chairman of the Council on Revenues.

"The real issue for the next governor is that the uncertainty around the forecast remains relatively wide," Brewbaker said Monday morning on Hawaii News Now Sunrise. "We are still a little squishy. A year from now I think it will look better but it will still have that feel of uncertainty."

Hawaii personal income rose about 1% in the second quarter, the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism said Monday, and a larger increase has been forecasted for the year, but most of it could be offset by slightly higher inflation.

The state economy has enjoyed a better-than-expected tourism rebound over the summer, reflecting extra airline seats to the islands that were mostly filled with U.S. mainland residents taking advantage of relative bargains in Hawaii hotel room rates.

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