Posted on May 20, 2019 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Ltr. No. F19-05
May 20, 2019
Deliberative Material for Revenue Estimates

Requester sought “assumptions, bases, computations, source data, and documents and analysis relied upon” for the Hawaii Department of Taxation’s (TAX) revenue estimates in legislative testimony.   OIP concluded that TAX could not withhold from public disclosure under the UIPA the underlying assumptions, source data and documents, and computations it uses to create revenue estimates presented in legislative testimony for the specific bills identified by Requester.

TAX did not establish that a confidentiality statute applies to information in the records at issue, although OIP recognizes that a confidentiality statute could apply to source data and documents used by TAX in creating other revenue estimates.  See HRS § 92F-13(4). The records at issue here were created by TAX, not by a legislative committee, and therefore were not working papers of “legislative committees” that may be withheld under section 92F-13(5), HRS.  See HRS § 92F-13(5).

TAX asserted that disclosure of the records at issue would frustrate one of its legitimate government functions, namely its “ability to produce objective and independent revenue estimates.”  See HRS § 92F-13(3).  OIP concluded that under the UIPA, as interpreted by the Hawaii Supreme Court, deliberative and predecisional materials cannot be withheld on the basis that they would frustrate an agency’s decisionmaking function, although such materials may still be withheld under the UIPA’s frustration exception where some other specifically identified government function would be frustrated by disclosure.  Peer News LLC v. City and County of Honolulu, 143 Haw. 472 (2018) (Peer News).  OIP found that the government function TAX sought to protect was its decisionmaking function by another name, so TAX could not withhold the records at issue under the UIPA’s frustration exception to protect its ability to produce objective and independent revenue estimates.

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