Squirreling away money at the Department of Transportation

Well, it looks like the Hawaii State Watch Doggie has woken up from his nap.

A: Hey! Keeping watch is hard work!

Q: Undoubtedly. So what are you reading there? It looks like an auditor’s report — “Review of Special Funds, Revolving Funds, Trust Funds, and Trust Accounts of the Department of Transportation.”

A: Oh, yes. It’s an outrage.

Q: What’s the problem?

A: Well, you know that the DOT is telling the Legislature to raise taxes. Fuel tax, vehicle weight tax, registration fees. Taxes, taxes, taxes.

Q: So how are they different from any other government agency?

A: The auditor found that they have lots of money lying around. More than $120 million in accounts that haven’t been even touched for five years.

Q: And they’re asking for more?

A: And that’s not all. A few years ago, the feds got mad at them because they had close to a billion dollars in unused federal money. The feds gave us money to work on roads and bridges, and it wasn’t getting spent, so they were saying, “Why should we give you more money if you can’t spend what you have?”

Q: But they have been working the backlog down over the years.

A: Come on. More than a hundred million that hasn’t been touched for years? Makes me want to bite someone.

Q: Jeez! Don’t look at me so intensely when you’re saying that!

But didn’t they say that most of the money is a reserve that they have to keep around for their airport bonds?

A: Hey, if the bond agreement requires millions to be held in reserve, DOT should have been able to point to the part of the bond agreement saying that. Did they? No! And there’s more.

Q: There’s more?

A: There’s a law that says that DOT has to report all of their funds to the Legislature. They’re not supposed to squirrel away their money.

Q: So how much did they fail to report? Enough to buy a few bags of kibble?

A: More than $120 million.

Q: Different from the $120 million that they found lying around?

A: There’s some overlap, but mostly in addition to the idle $120 million.

Q: Did DOT say why those accounts weren’t reported to the Legislature?

A: Airports Division said that the airports account the auditor identified had no money in it anyway and they forgot to report it. The other divisions didn’t say anything.

Q: Not even “Oops,” eh? But they did report some of their accounts to the Legislature, right?

A: Yes, but not accurately. The auditor found that Highways Division’s fund reporting was inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate. For example, a fund reported as “Revolving &OHA” was actually five different funds, and none of them were related to OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs).

Q: Oh, man. Whatever can we do about that?

A: I’m going to bite someone on the schnozzola.

Q: If you can reach it, that is. You’re only a 7-pound doggie.

A: Details.


Tom Yamachika is president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii.

  1. WestKaui February 19, 2019 4:57 pm Reply

    Great reporting. It’s incredible to me that nobody has commented. Those unspent millions could go a long way toward fixing the traffic problems on Kauai…

  2. Rev Dr. Malama February 20, 2019 8:16 am Reply

    Thanks Tom, now where’s the official audit report? My dog smells a rat’s nest of corruption and collusion about to get a lot of attention on all Islands as the fbi targets more and more treasonous activities….

  3. harry oyama March 1, 2019 4:39 pm Reply

    What warrants these good for nothing State and County union workers of pension and medical coverage upon doing 20 years or more on taxpayer’s expense? Do you it costs taxpayer’s untold $billions each year to support these useless workers when in fact in the private sector one person does the work of at least 6 of these parasites.

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