Gov. Ige says state worker furloughs still possible this year

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The governor says Hawaii’s economy is showing signs of improvement. But, he’s once again bringing up the possibility of state worker furloughs as early as July.

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If they’re furloughed Gov. David Ige says it would be fewer than the two days a month he had proposed earlier. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of just straight pay cuts.

The governor says revenue projections have improved, thanks in part to more visitors coming to Hawaii through the Safe Travels program, as well as more people getting vaccinated.

But compared to last year, he says January revenues are down 9.4%. So, he’s once again looking at furloughs as a solution.

“We certainly are looking at labor savings as a last resort in our budget plan,” said Ige. “But clearly, with the budget that we face, it continues to be part of that.”

Unlike the last time, he’s negotiating with the unions. The unions had threatened to sue the state because furloughs are supposed to be part of collective bargaining agreement. Other options are being explored.

“It can be pay cuts,” said Ige. “It can be furloughs. It can be a combination of both. We do prefer furloughs because it does allow us to restore pay very easily as the economy improves.”

The teachers’ union points out that even though their budget cuts were drastically reduced, the proposal by the Department of Education would still amount to pay cuts for teachers. HSTA sent an email to members saying the plan calls for a 9.2% pay cut for the next four years.

The state’s largest public workers union, HGEA, says it’s difficult to comment on the governor’s plan. The union sent a statement saying, “It is an unsettled and fluid situation as seen in the State’s improving revenue picture and the likelihood that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal relief plan will bring much needed aid to Hawaii.”

So a lot will be riding on the relief bill currently in the works by Congress, to see if any of these cuts can be avoided.

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