Hawaii leaders cheer positive revenue forecast

Anita Hofschneider
Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii's political leaders are praising the latest state revenue forecast which shows growing revenue over the next two years and say Hawaii residents and businesses should be optimistic about the improving economy.

The Council on Revenues met Tuesday to announce the figures.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says tax revenue is expected to rise by 8 percent in 2014 and 7 percent in 2015. That's up from the last revenue forecast, which predicted growth rates of 7.3 percent and 6.8 percent in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Abercrombie says the predicted increase could bring Hawaii $86 million more revenue over the next two years.

State Finance Director Kalbert Young said most of the growth will likely take place in Hawaii's construction and real estate industries. He said the tourism industry is expected to stay strong and remain Hawaii's top industry, but it is almost at capacity.

Abercrombie says he also expects growth for agriculture and small businesses and that the economic upswing will benefit all local industries.

Young says the forecast suggests that the state's economic growth will peak by 2016, meaning the next batch of lawmakers will have to grapple with more moderate growth predictions. But he said today's outlook is very positive, and he thinks Hawaii is in a better place than most other states in terms of economic growth.

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said the forecast shows the state is on track with its proposed budget.

The Legislature passed a $23.8 billion two-year budget this year with millions in funding for capital improvement projects and employee health benefits. Lawmakers were anticipating growing revenue when they passed the budget, but the latest prediction is even more favorable than they realized. The bill is on Abercrombie's desk.