HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige’s furlough plan faces legal hurdles and will not be enough to offset the budget deficit, according to a key lawmaker who says furloughs can be delayed for at least two years.

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Chairwoman of the House Finance Committee Rep. Sylvia Luke says the legal challenges by the public workers’ unions will stall the furloughs in court, so it will ultimately be up to the state legislature to fix the budget deficit. She says the solution is not through furloughs.

Gov. Ige has to offset a budget deficit of $1.4 billion every year for the next four years, and part of his plan is to furlough state workers two days per month. Unions have already said they plan to challenge it because furloughs have to be negotiated through collective bargaining by law. While the state attorney general says Ige can impose them through his emergency powers because of the pandemic, Rep. Luke says the legal hurdle is only half the problem.

“When you look at the numbers, it just doesn’t pencil out and it doesn’t make sense. That’s why we’re seriously looking at different alternatives because we do not have faith that the governor can successfully implement his budget programs,” said Rep. Luke.

Ige says the furloughs will save $300 million per year, but some workers will be exempt because they provide essential services. Rep. Luke says that could drastically reduce the savings from furloughs.

“So we’re not looking at $300 million. At some point in time he’s gonna be looking at $130 million,” said Rep. Luke.

She adds that there are ways to hold off the furloughs for two years by not filling retired positions and cutting programs. She says that lawmakers have to take a hard look at what services are really needed and decide what Hawaii can actually afford, because those decisions will have long lasting impacts.

“What we really need to do, because the budget issue and continued revenue issue will be a long term issue, we really need to take this opportunity to restructure government service,” said Luke.

All four mayors say they have no plans to furlough county workers.

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