A citizens’ report on the Hawaii budget

Public and non-profit companies are required to provide shareholder reports for their investors. Every business can generate a ‘profit and loss’ statement or a balance sheet.

As Glenn Beck pointed out in his book “Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth, and Treasure” (2010): Why can’t the federal government and the State of Hawaii provide a shareholder report to taxpayers, in clear, easy-to-understand language?

The Federal government offers “A Citizens Guide to the Fiscal Year 2010,” paring down the Annual Financial Report to 12 pages. It gives us an overview of the US economy and the budget deficit. There is even a one-page summary of assets, liabilities, and social insurance. It’s a good start, and something we need for Hawaii. 

A quick search forHawaii’s budget reports gives us a wealth of information. The Department of Budget and Finance offers us Executive Biennium Budgets, Executive Supplemental Budgets, Budget in Briefs, Multi-Year Program and Financial Plans, Executive Memorandums, and Financial Memorandums.

I’m glad that there is some transparency in government, but either we are overwhelmed by the large dollar amounts, or overwhelmed by obscure details and government codes.

In January 2011, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii published “The Real State of the State: An Uncensored Look at the Fiscal Challenges Facing Hawaii” – it offers a budget analysis and a select review of state departments, but it’s still 32 pages.

Here’s what I’d like to see from the Hawaii Department of Budget and Finance: a simple, two page financial statement that includes a summary of spending by department, and a statement of assets and liabilities. In other words, a Profit and Loss Statement and a Balance Sheet.

The Citizens Report on the Hawaii Budget would include the following six sections, broken into actual revenues and costs for the fiscal year; estimated revenues and costs for the fiscal year; and actual revenues and costs for the previous fiscal year: 

I. Hawaii’s population: state and county populations

II. Economic Highlights: 1-2 paragraphs aboutHawaii’s economy and forecasts

III. Revenues & Tax Collections: tax revenues, user fees, and grants/reimbursements from the Federal Government

IV. Spending & Operating Costs: spending by department/state agency, broken into major programs

V. Liabilities, Debt, & Unfunded Obligations: debt held by the public, state employee benefits, other

VI. Net Operating Profit (Loss): total revenues minus total spending

It shouldn’t be rocket science. But I tried to put this report together from the budgets available, and I was mired in the different budget versions and funding sources. Can anyone put together a simple, accurate financial statement for the State of Hawaii?

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