By not acting, lawmakers let raises take effect
The amounts are set by a little-noticed panel under a 2006 state amendment
Pay for the governor, state executives, judges and legislators will all increase, thanks to a little-noticed salary commission appointed last year.
By taking no action to stop the raises, the state Legislature gave tacit approval this year to the commission's recommendations.
The increases vary by position. For instance, by 2012, pay for the Supreme Court chief justice will rise to $213,840 from $144,900, while the governor's pay will rise to $143,748 from $112,000.
The Legislature cannot accept raises until after the next election, according to the state Constitution, but after 2009 the legislative salary will rise to $57,852 from the current $37,500 by 2014.
The report stated that "there were long periods during which other state employees received pay increases while elected and appointed officials and justices and judges did not receive pay increases."
Under the plan, all state executives, including the governor and lieutenant governor, chief of staff, department heads and deputies, will get a 5 percent raise on July 1.
Judges will get a 10 percent raise and then raises of either 3.5 percent or 10 percent every year through 2012.
By 2012, circuit judges will see their pay go to $185,736 from the current $125,856, and district judges' pay will rise to $175,032 from $118,611.
The commission was created by a state constitutional amendment approved by voters last year that called for the governor, Senate president, House speaker and chief justice to name members.
The commission chairman was Ben Kudo, while Paul Oshiro was vice chairman. The members were Barbara Annis, Doris Ching, Michael Irish, Stan Shiraki and Wayne Yamasaki.
The commission filed a report in March with the Legislature, which did not hold hearings or publicize the report. Under the constitutional amendment, the salary increases went into effect when the Legislature adjourned last week.
"The only way they can be stopped is if they are voted down, and the only way they can be voted down is if they are brought up. And these were not brought up," said Sen. Sam Slom, a critic of past salary commission reports.
This report surprised Slom (R, Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head), who said he had thought it was not yet completed.
"The public is being hoodwinked," he said. "They don't get tax relief, and they get a higher bill for this."
The price tag for the raises will be $20.5 million by 2014, according to the commission's report.
House Speaker Calvin Say said the legislative increases are needed because many office holders have no other job. "I am happy the Legislature is getting an increase," he said.
Legislators have difficulty finding an employer that allows them to leave work for the four-month legislative session, Say said. "This is why those who depend on their legislative salary, they are struggling. The Legislature is a full-time obligation."
Commission Chairman Kudo said the report was subject to a legislative veto, but because no action was taken, the raises go into effect automatically.
He said all the commission meetings were open, but they relied on the state administration to send out notifications. "We didn't issue a press release," Kudo said.
The commission held eight meetings starting Dec. 28. The final report was completed March 14, and then the Legislature was briefed.
Kudo said he did not hear any objections from lawmakers.
The pay raises are needed, he said, because each branch of government is paid less than counterparts in other states.
"What we honestly found is that the pay scales were very much under what we would have expected," Kudo said.
Hawaii pay for judges, Kudo said, still ranks as 49th among the 50 states.