A hurricane of politics

It appears that a decade of drama over the Hurricane Relief Fund may be over.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill allowing him to take $42 million from the $117 million hurricane fund to help erase the budget deficit for this fiscal year — and to drain the fund entirely if more is needed.

The hurricane fund has been a subject of endless misunderstandings since it was created to provide windstorm coverage to Hawai‘i homeowners when private insurers left the market after Iniki.

It was funded with premiums collected from homeowners receiving state coverage, which ended when private insurers returned to the market.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano proposed draining the hurricane surplus during the last recession, arguing that its purpose had been served and the funds should be diverted to other priorities.

He was shot down by opponents led by Republicans, who pushed for the surplus to be returned to homeowners who paid into the fund, a dubious proposition since they’d gotten the insurance they paid for and had no legitimate claim to refunds.

Opponents then shifted their argument to preserving the surplus to pay for damage to public facilities in a future hurricane, but that wasn’t the purpose set by the enabling legislation.

Finally, the argument became holding the money to resume state provided insurance if private insurers leave the market again.

It would be nice to leave a little money in the fund to jump start the program if necessary, but it would be mostly funded with new premiums from homeowners and $117 million is more than needed for a quick restart.

Bond analysts liked the cash reserve that the hurricane surplus represented for the state, but it’s difficult to justify leaving the money idle when the state has bills to pay.

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11 Comments on “A hurricane of politics”

  1. Richard Gozinya Says:

    What spooks me is that our reserves are so thin that any natural disaster could find us lacking resources to care for folks and recover. I know the Hurricane Fund wasn’t intended for this but I would have much preferred the cash be stashed against that inevitable rainy day instead of dumped into the Government Union Jobs Preservation Fund , excuse me, I mean GeneralFund.

  2. Kolea Says:

    Thank you, Dave, for saying so clearly what so many Republicans deliberately misrepresent. Their rant against plans to “raid the Hurricane Fund” has been one of their top talking points.

    Which raises the question: why have they been so successful at misrepresenting the Hurricane Fund issue for so long? Have they been consciously dishonest (as I believe), or have they just found the argument so effective that they could not bother to fact-check their own argument?

    @Richard,

    If you see the effort to retain government services and ONLY see it as an attempt to save government jobs, you are being swept along by a willful half-truth of your own. People want government services. They may not want to pay for them through taxes. But if conservatives continue to pretend preserving government services is ONLY about protecting public union jobs, your arguments will not be taken seriously by most people. If all you want to do is feed the anger of the Tea Party half-wits, then, yes, half-truths will probably suffice.

  3. Cute Lunatic Says:

    I’m not sure how this works. (Disclaimer up front from now on.) Can we put the hurricane relief fund into a rainy day fund? A rainy day fund sounds like it can be used for anything. And whatever happened to that 911 fund? Have we stopped paying for that yet? Is there any money left in there that can be used for something else?

  4. Teddy Freddy Says:

    Thank you Dave for so succinctly “telling it like it is” and explaining the Hurricane Funds intent and reality. Where have you been during all these years when the disinformation regarding the fund has been thrown by the repubs repeatedly at those who advocated using the fund for other pressing needs? Or, have you trumpeted this message before and I just failed to see it?

  5. zzzzzz Says:

    Perhaps the Repubs were successful in preventing the Hurricane Fund from being raided because a lot of us liked having that money, and a lot of us were afraid that if allowed to spend it, the legislature and governor would not spend it wisely.

    I’m wondering how much spending that fund will cost us in additional interest payments for our debts.

  6. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Kolea says: “People want government services. They may not want to pay for them through taxes.”

    Donnez-moi une break.

    People want to see their tax dollars spent wisely and used efficiently,providing the most bang for the buck and they want their representatives to exercise fiscal discipline during the tough times.

    That ain’t happening. The examples are legion.

  7. Kolea Says:

    The people “want their representatives to exercise fiscal discipline during the tough times.

    That ain’t happening. The examples are legion.”

    Yep, wasteful military spending, billions in tax credits to oil companies and many more billions in tax cuts to millionaires which massively increased the deficit.

    Paul Ryan’s proposed budget would GREATLY INCREASE the deficit for decades. The Progressive Caucus, which is the LARGEST caucus in Congress–larger than the Blue Dog caucus or the Tea Party caucus– have proposed a budget plan which would reduce the deficit much sooner than the Ryan-GOP plan, but the corporate media would rather focus on the fake posturing of the rightwing GOP than take seriously a fiscally responsible budget plan.

    Here is what The Economist had to say:

    “Mr Ryan’s plan adds (by its own claims) $6 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, but promises to balance the budget by sometime in the 2030s by cutting programmes for the poor and the elderly. The Progressive Caucus’s plan would (by its own claims) balance the budget by 2021 by cutting defence spending and raising taxes, mainly on rich people.”

    The Progressive Caucus budget can be found online at:

    http://grijalva.house.gov/uploads/The%20CPC%20FY2012%20Budget.pdf

  8. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Kolea,the subject was the Hurricane Fund. Save your rants on Ryan, GOP, war, Tea Party, oil companies and probably a hundred other pet peeves for future posts.

    You get paid by the word?

  9. Kolea Says:

    Hey Richard,

    The money from the Hurricane Fund will go towards providing government services. But rather than stay on THAT topic, you stretched the subject, took a one-dimensional approach and used it as an opening to attack public workers.

    Like so many, you PRETEND to be a deficit hawk, but only when it serves your purposes. If I jumped from there to the high-profile Paul Ryan budget bill, that is because that example of GOP “fiscal responsibility” has dominated the media cycle for the last few weeks.

    Well, until a Tea Party ally hacked into Rep. Weiner’s Twitter account.

    Those unhappy because the reduction in the Hurricane Fund will affect our credit rating by a small amount, should also express their outrage over the encumbrance of a billion dollars in the auction rate securities Lingle’s administration illegally invested. We have lost a couple of hundred of million dollars in that failed investment, which is much more egregious than borrowing money from a Hurricane Fund which has been sitting there idle.

    Republicans have pretended for years, and it continues here, to have a much better, “real word” grasp of economics. But that is fraudulent, as recent history shows and the continued Republican whining over the Hurricane Fund. And your inability to see government services as anything other than spending on government workers, just provides more evidence of ideology trumping knowledge on the right.

    Yeah, I get paid by the word. But they dock me for every typo, every misspelled word, every grammar error and every phononym. So I barely break even!

  10. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Pithy. Try it.

    🙂

  11. Kolea Says:

    Hey Richard!

    Not fair. There I was. flailing about with a broadsword and you knock me over with a well-placed, gentle hit from a slingshot.

    My last request is that readers serious about deficit reduction should read the Progressive Caucus’s deficit-busting budget plan.

    I now fade away….


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