HONOLULU (KHON2) — Thousands of state workers will be furloughed two days per month starting in January. Gov. David Ige says the furloughs are necessary to offset a deficit of $1.4 billion a year over the next four budget years.
State workers will be furloughed two days a month, meaning they will get two unpaid days off. It amounts to a 9.2% cut in pay. The governor adds that he has looked into all the options available to avoid it. Otherwise, he would have to consider massive layoffs.
“I must take steps now to enable state employees to remain in their jobs that keep the government running and minimize layoffs,” said Ige.
First responders and other emergency workers are exempt. Gov. Ige says the furloughs will save the State $300 million in the first year. He plans to tap into the rainy day fund and pull in money from special funds, as well as imposing a hiring freeze. He could not say how long the furloughs will last, but he says the state economy will have to improve significantly and a lot depends on tourism bouncing back.
“Our hospitality industry is the largest industry here in the state and certainly getting people back to work will be an important part of the recovery,” said Ige.
The public workers unions released a joint statement saying, “These drastic cuts will carry devastating, long-lasting consequences…This is a dangerous and badly timed policy decision that key lawmakers have publicly stated is not necessary at this time.”
They add that this would lead to a drastic cut in spending make the economy worse.
“I think if I were one of our local merchants or local restaurants, I’d be worried right now because government employees are very likely to slow down the holiday spending,” said Randy Perreira, executive director of Hawaii Government Employees Association (HEGA).
HGEA is the largest public workers union in the state. Perreira estimates about 30,000 members will be furloughed. He adds that the governor’s plan will not necessarily avoid layoffs.
“For him to suggest that the furloughs would mitigate the layoffs, I think was misleading to his employees, and just trying to turn the employees into accepting the furloughs just because, and I think that’s just wrong,” said Perreira.