Hawaii state tax collections came in stronger than expected for the year ended June 30.

Total deposits into the state’s general fund were down 0.9 percent for the year, compared to the previous year, according to preliminary figures from the Hawaii Department of Taxation. That’s stronger than the minus 1.6 percent growth forecast by the Council on Revenues, which lawmakers relied on to build the state’s 2012 and 2013 budgets.

Dean Hirata, deputy director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, called the stronger growth “good news.”

“The June results are encouraging as we look at the Hawaii economy going forward,” Hirata told Civil Beat.

If the minus 1.6 percent growth had panned out, it would have resulted in the general fund finishing the year about $70 million shy of the fiscal 2010 balance.

Under that previous revenue estimate, the state had faced an approximately $230 million shortfall for the 2011 budget year. Lawmakers gave Abercrombie the authority to tap into the Hurricane Relief Fund to cover that deficit.

Hirata stressed that the stronger growth won’t affect the state’s approved operating budget, which Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law on June 23.

“We should view the (minus 0.9 percent growth) as a cushion or reserve closing out fiscal 2011 year and going into fiscal 2012,” Hirata said. “It does not change the budget that was recently signed by the Governor and we will continue to address the challenges in the FY2012-13 biennium budget, which includes estimates on the revenue side and significant savings and reductions on the expenditure side.”

The Tax Department attributed the overall decline to delayed income tax refunds back in July 2010.

“If the accrued refunds are factored out, general fund deposits have increased by 3.4 percent,” Tax Director Fred Pablo said in a prepared statement.

Within the general fund, General Excise and Use Taxes — the single largest category — for the year totaled $2.49 billion, up 7.7 percent over last fiscal year. Transient Accommodation Tax collections totaled $284.5 million for the year, up almost 27 percent.

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