Wednesday, April 25, 2001


HSTA logo

End to strike
leaves Legislature
warily eyeing future

Many lawmakers wonder if
the state will be able to
support raises

By Richard Borreca

As state and teacher negotiators shook hands on a new pay raise, the final piece of the state's budget puzzle dropped into place.

The estimated total extra cost to the state for pay raises in the new two-year budget is about $290 million.

Legislature Both legislative and state officials say the first round of pay raises are affordable, but the results after 2003 are not clear.

According to state figures, the wage settlement with HSTA is $112 million, HGEA $134 million, UPW $22 million and the unannounced but estimated figure for UHPA is $25 million.

"We are going to have to take some time -- working with the Legislature, trying to figure out where we have flexibility, where we can make adjustments. It may take several days or a week," said Gov. Ben Cayetano.

"There was a great deal of confusion here because of what they (legislators) did in anticipation of a pay raise," he added.

Legislative leaders, however, predict that the budget, pegged around $7 billion, will fall into place.

Senate president Robert Bunda predicted that the budget will handle all the pay raises and the previously suggested tax increases and tax rollback delays will not be needed.

In the House, Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa) added that the Legislature may also not include the planned $7.50 surcharge on wholesale hotel room sales.

"But the Speaker (Rep. Calvin Say) still has concerns about what will happen in 2003," Oshiro said.

Oshiro stressed that changes to the state health fund, which is projected to have cost overruns in the next decade, will be key to containing spending.

However, Bunda worries that the state's economy may not be strong enough for any long-term planning.

"We need to allow for the planning for the next round of collective bargaining," Bunda said.

"But the economy is not stable and it is difficult to predict the economic situation two years out," Bunda added.

Veteran state Rep. Joe Souki (D, East Maui), however, wasn't reluctant to speculate.

"I predict we will struggle along through the next year," he said. "But then after the election in 2002 we won't have a choice.

"My druthers are to do something now (to raise more revenue) but it isn't politically realistic."

Republican leader, Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai), said the state Legislature has yet to reform the government services enough to save money.

"The whole community suffered (during the strike) but we still don't have meaningful educational and governmental reform." Slom said Cayetano also worries that the Legislature in its zeal to make room for the public worker pay raises, has cut social service problems for the poor.

A new drug habitation program, for instance was dropped from the Senate version of the state budget.

"I hope these things can be restored," Cayetano said.

>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site
>> UHPA Web site

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