State Debt

Types of Bonds Authorized by the Constitution

The Constitution of the State empowers the Legislature to authorize the issuance of four types of bonds (defined by the Constitution as bonds, notes and other instruments of indebtedness): general obligation bonds (defined by the Constitution as all bonds for the payment of the principal and interest for which the full faith and credit of the State or a political subdivision are pledged and, unless otherwise indicated, including reimbursable general obligation bonds hereinafter defined); bonds issued under special improvement statutes; revenue bonds (defined by the Constitution as all bonds payable from revenues, or user taxes, or any combination of both, of a public undertaking, improvement, system or loan program and any loan made thereunder and secured as may be provided by law); and special purpose revenue bonds (defined by the Constitution as all bonds payable from rental or other payments made to an issuer by a person pursuant to contract and secured as may be provided by law, including a loan program to a state property insurance program providing hurricane coverage to the general public). Under the Constitution, special purpose revenue bonds shall only be authorized or issued to finance facilities of or for, or to loan the proceeds of such bonds to assist, manufacturing, processing or industrial enterprises, certain not‑for‑profit private schools, utilities serving the general public, health care facilities provided to the general public by not‑for‑profit corporations, early childhood education and care facilities provided to the general public by not‑for‑profit corporations, agricultural enterprises serving important agricultural lands, or low and moderate income government housing programs. All bonds of the State other than special purpose revenue bonds must be authorized by a majority vote of the members to which each house of the Legislature is entitled. Special purpose revenue bonds of the State must be authorized by two-thirds vote of the members to which each house of the Legislature is entitled.

Further information can be found on these links to Chapter 39, HRS, State Bonds –http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/HRS0039/HRS_0039-.htm, Chapter 39A, HRS, Special Purpose Revenue Bonds – http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/HRS0039/HRS_0039-.htm, and Chapter 39B, HRS, Allocation of Private Activity Bonds – http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/HRS0039B/HRS_0039B-.htm.

Outstanding Indebtedness and Debt Limit

The Constitution provides that determinations of the total outstanding indebtedness of the State and the exclusions therefrom shall be made annually and certified by law or as prescribed by law. General obligation bonds may be issued by the State, provided that such bonds at the time of issuance would not cause the total amount of principal and interest payable in the current or any future fiscal year, whichever is higher, on such bonds and on all outstanding general obligation bonds in the current or any future fiscal year, whichever is higher, to exceed a sum equal to 18.5% of the average of the General Fund revenues of the State in the three fiscal years immediately preceding such issuance. For the purposes of such determination, General Fund revenues of the State do not include moneys received as grants from the federal government and receipts in reimbursement of any reimbursable general obligation bonds which are excluded in computing the total indebtedness of the State.

In order to carry out the provisions contained in the Constitution, the Legislature enacted Part IV of Chapter 39, HRS (“Part IV”), to require the Director of Finance to prepare statements of the total outstanding indebtedness of the State and the exclusions therefrom and of the debt limit of the State evidencing the power of the State to issue general obligation bonds and, prior to the issuance of any general obligation bonds, to find that the issuance of such bonds will not cause the debt limit of the State to be exceeded.

Further information can be found on these links to the Statement of Total Outstanding Indebtedness of the State – http://budget.hawaii.gov/finance/debt-management/outstanding/, and the Statement of the Debt Limit of the State — http://budget.hawaii.gov/finance/debt-management/debtlimit/.

Exclusions

The Constitution contains nine general provisions excluding certain types of bonds (including certain general obligation bonds) when determining the power of the State to issue general obligation bonds or the funded debt of any political subdivision. Six of these exclusions are described below. As stated above, the limitation on indebtedness of the State under the Constitution applies only to the power to issue general obligation bonds, and the limitation is measured by the debt service on general obligation bonds against the three year average of General Fund revenues. The three exclusions relating to revenue bonds, special purpose revenue bonds, and bonds issued under special improvement statutes for which the only security is the properties benefited or assessments thereon are chiefly of concern to counties when computing the funded debt of counties.

One of the nine exclusionary provisions excludes bonds that have matured, or that mature in the then current fiscal year, or that have been irrevocably called for redemption and the redemption date has occurred or will occur in the then current fiscal year, or for the full payment of which moneys or securities have been irrevocably set aside.

Another of the exclusionary provisions excludes reimbursable general obligation bonds (defined in the Constitution as general obligation bonds issued for a public undertaking, improvement or system from which revenues, or user taxes, or a combination of both, may be derived for the payment of the principal and interest as reimbursement to the General Fund and for which reimbursement is required by law, and, in the case of general obligation bonds issued by the State for a political subdivision, general obligation bonds for which the payment of the principal and interest as reimbursement to the General Fund is required by law to be made from the revenues of the political subdivision) issued for a public undertaking, improvement or system, but only to the extent that reimbursements to the General Fund are made from the net revenues, or net user tax receipts, or combination of both, derived from the particular undertaking, improvement or system or payments or return on security under a loan program or a loan thereunder for the immediately preceding fiscal year, with the result that the amount of reimbursable general obligation debt excluded will vary from year to year. A “user tax” is defined by the Constitution as a tax on goods or services or on the consumption thereof, the receipts of which are substantially derived from the consumption, use or sale of goods and services in the utilization of the functions or services furnished by a public undertaking, improvement or system, provided that mortgage recording taxes shall constitute taxes of a State property insurance program. Thus, for example, the aviation fuel tax is a user tax insofar as the airports system of the State is concerned, since the tax is substantially derived from the sale of a good (aviation fuel) in the utilization of the functions of the airports, but the aviation fuel tax would not be a user tax so far as schools or a stadium is concerned, since the tax is not derived from the consumption or use or sale of goods in using schools or a stadium.

Two other exclusionary provisions exclude (a) reimbursable general obligation bonds of the State issued for any political subdivision, but only for so long as reimbursement by the political subdivision to the State for the payment of principal and interest on such bonds is required by law, and (b) general obligation bonds issued for assessable public improvements to the extent reimbursements to the General Fund for principal and interest on such bonds are in fact made from assessment collections available therefor.

One other exclusionary provision excludes bonds constituting instruments of indebtedness under which the State incurs a contingent liability as a guarantor, but only to the extent the principal amount of such bonds does not exceed 7% of the principal amount of outstanding general obligation bonds not otherwise excluded by the exclusionary provisions of the Constitution and subject to the condition that the State shall establish a reserve in an amount in a reasonable proportion to outstanding loans guaranteed by the State. This exclusion is intended to permit the exclusion of such items as general obligation guarantees of loans under State loan programs to the extent the principal amount of such items does not exceed 7% of the outstanding principal amount of general obligation bonds not otherwise excluded. At such time as the principal amount of such items exceeds 7% of the outstanding principal amount of general obligation bonds not otherwise excluded, the potential debt service on all such items in excess of 7% of the outstanding principal amount of general obligation bonds not otherwise excluded would be included in determining the power of the State to incur indebtedness.

A final exclusionary provision excludes bonds issued by or on behalf of the State or a political subdivision to meet appropriations for any fiscal period in anticipation of the collection of revenues for such period or to meet casual deficits or failures of revenue, if required to be paid within one year, and bonds issued by or on behalf of the State to suppress insurrection, to repel invasion, to defend the State in war or to meet emergencies caused by disaster or act of God.

Other Constitutional and Statutory Provisions

General obligation bonds of the State must be authorized pursuant to the Constitution by a majority vote of the members to which each house of the Legislature is entitled. The Legislature from time to time enacts laws specifying the amount of such bonds (without fixing any particular details of such bonds) that may be issued and defining the purposes for which the bonds are to be issued.

The Constitution requires that general obligation bonds of the State with a term exceeding two years shall be in serial form maturing in substantially equal installments of principal, or maturing in substantially equal installments of both principal and interest, the first installment of principal to mature not later than five years from the date of the issue of such series and the last installment to mature not later than twenty-five years from the date of such issue, except that the last installment on general obligation bonds sold to the federal government, on reimbursable general obligation bonds and on bonds constituting instruments of indebtedness under which the State or a political subdivision incurs a contingent liability as a guarantor shall mature not later than thirty-five years from the date of such issue.

Part I of Chapter 39, HRS, as amended, is the general law for the issuance of general obligation bonds of the State. Such part sets forth limitations on general obligation bonds, such as interest rates and maturity dates, and also sets forth the provisions for the sale and form of such bonds. Such part provides that the Director of Finance, with the approval of the Governor, may issue from time to time general obligation bonds of the State in accordance with acts of the Legislature authorizing the issuance of such bonds and defining the purposes for which such bonds are to be issued.

The Governor determines when the projects authorized by the acts authorizing bonds shall commence. General obligation bonds are sold from time to time pursuant to the authorization of such acts and Part I of Chapter 39, HRS, as amended, in order to finance the projects. The Governor then allots the proceeds of the bonds so issued to the purposes specified in the acts authorizing bonds.

Section 11 of Article VII of the Constitution provides that all appropriations for which the source is general obligation bond funds or the General Fund must be for specified periods which may not exceed three years, except for appropriations from the State Educational Facilities Improvement Special Fund. Any appropriation or any portion of an appropriation which is unencumbered at the close of the fiscal period for which the appropriation is made will lapse, provided that no appropriation or portion thereof for which the source is general obligation bond funds shall lapse if the Legislature determines that such appropriation is necessary to qualify for federal aid financing and reimbursement. A general obligation bond authorization, to the extent such authorization is dependent on a specific appropriation, must be reduced in an amount equal to the amount of appropriation lapsed by operation of law or Section 11 of Article VII of the Constitution.

Financing Agreements (Including Leases)

HRS Chapter 37D provides for financing agreements (including leases and installment sale agreements) for the improvement, use or acquisition of real or personal property which is or will be owned or operated by the State or any State agency and specifies that any such financing agreement shall not be an obligation for which the full faith and credit of the State or any State agency is pledged, and that no moneys other than amounts appropriated by the Legislature or otherwise held in trust for such purposes shall be required to be applied to the payment thereof. The Legislature is not required to appropriate moneys for such purpose, and financing agreements do not constitute “bonds” within the meaning of Sections 12 or 13 of Article VII of the Constitution. Chapter 37D does provide that the Governor’s Executive Budget shall include requests to the Legislature for appropriation of moneys to pay amounts due each fiscal period under financing agreements.

Further information can be found on this link to Chapter 37D, HRS, Management of Financing Agreements – http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/HRS0037D/HRS_0037D-.htm.

Reimbursement to State General Fund for Debt Service

As indicated above, all general obligation bonds of the State are payable as to principal and interest from the General Fund of the State. Acts of the Legislature authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds for certain purposes frequently (but not always) require that the General Fund be reimbursed for the payment from such fund of the debt service on such bonds, such reimbursement to be made from any income or revenues or user taxes derived from the carrying out of such purposes. Such income or revenues or user taxes are not pledged to the payment of such bonds. There are now outstanding general obligation bonds (including general obligation refunding bonds) issued for highway, harbor and airport facilities, for land development, for economic development projects, for university revenue projects, and for State parking facilities, where the General Fund of the State is required to be reimbursed for all debt service. Reimbursement is made from the income or revenues or user taxes derived from or with respect to such highways, harbor and airport facilities, land development, economic development projects, university projects, parking facilities and housing programs. Of the bonds referred to in this paragraph: (a) reimbursement to the General Fund of general obligation bonds issued for highways is made exclusively from the tax on motor fuel and does not include any revenues such as toll revenue; and (b) reimbursement to the General Fund of general obligation bonds issued for airports is made from the aviation fuel tax as well as from airports system revenues. Reimbursement to the General Fund of all the other general obligation bonds referred to in this paragraph is made from non-tax revenues, such as from wharfage and dockage charges, pier rentals and other charges for harbor facilities; from land sales or rentals; and from dormitory and dining hall revenues and income from other ancillary facilities.

Some of the bonds referred to in the immediately preceding paragraph do not constitute “reimbursable general obligation bonds” excludable from the debt limit because they are not issued for the type of public undertaking, improvement or system to which the constitutional provisions for such exclusion pertain.