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Wednesday, March 1, 2017
New Study Details Driving Forces of Hawaii's Unfunded Liability Crisis
By Grassroot Institute @ 10:54 PM :: 6604 Views :: Hawaii State Government, Labor

New Study Details Driving Forces of Hawaii's Unfunded Liability Crisis

Unsustainable government salaries and pensions are worsening the crisis

News Release from Grassroot Institute

HONOLULU, HAWAII--March 1, 2017--A new study released by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii details salaries and benefits for government and private sector workers in the state of Hawaii. The study shows that unsustainably high government salaries and benefits may be putting Hawaii's pension fund in danger.

According to Dr. Keli'i Akina, President/CEO of the Grassroot Institute, "Hawaii's unfunded liability crisis has topped $23 billion for pensions and health benefits for public retirees. Salary hikes and pension spikes have worsened the debt, which is beginning to devour the state budget."

Dr. Akina continued, "The growing debt is already leading to cuts in services for public safety, education, homelessness relief efforts, and many other important government programs. It also has the very real possibility of jeopardizing the retirement benefits of public sector workers.

"The pension system in Hawaii is crumbling. While public workers deserve competitive salaries and benefits, the current system of raising taxes to afford it is unsustainable. Hawaii's citizens are struggling, and our leaders need to work together to fix the problem immediately without pushing the burden onto taxpayers or future generations."

The report shows that:

  • County workers in the state of Hawaii make among the highest wages in the nation, adjusted for cost of living.
  • Government benefits in Hawaii have grown five times faster than benefits in the private sector.
  • Unfunded liabilities for local government benefits have grown to the highest point in history at $23 billion.
  • Taxpayers pay 76 percent of the bill for government pension and health benefits for retirees, despite Hawaii state and county workers comprising only 15 percent of the total workforce.
  • Hawaii's government is now growing faster than the private sector.
  • Police and fire workers make the highest wages among all county departments, averaging over $75,000 per year, not including benefits. Keep in mind that overtime can double these numbers.
  • Private sector median wages are only $38,750 per year.
  • Increased payment for pension debt may cost taxpayers an extra $336 million every year, devouring state and local budgets.

The full report can be found at: LINK


About the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii:

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, the free market, and limited, accountable government throughout Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region. 

To learn more, visit

About Grassroot President:

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., is a recognized scholar, educator, public policy spokesperson, and community leader in Hawaii. Currently, he is President/CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a public policy think tank dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, free markets and limited, accountable government. An expert in East-West Philosophy and ethics, Dr. Akina has taught at universities in China and the United States and continues as an adjunct instructor at Hawaii Pacific University. In 2016, Dr. Akina was elected to a four-year term as Trustee-at-Large of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.


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