Lingle pleads with unions to lay off wage demands
Gov. Linda Lingle is asking public employee unions to hold off on any new wage demands for at least a year while the state grapples with a looming $903 million budget deficit.
In a news conference yesterday, Lingle said she plans meetings with all the public employee unions next week to tell them, "There is no money to give you any increases."
"If you ask me if we are going to have layoffs, I say it is too early to say that. That is a last resort because a layoff is a lack of service."
Gov. Linda Lingle
Discussing the possibility of laying off state workers in the face of a looming $903 million budget deficit
The state is entering a round of new contract talks with employees for the state's white- and blue-collar unions, plus the schoolteachers, university professors and firefighters.
Lingle said salaries make up one of the largest parts of state expenses, and the government cannot afford any increases now.
Lingle said she will tell the union leaders that pay raises for contracts have to be postponed.
"My position to them is you need to take a year and let us continue to work through it. Let's not talk about any increases, so let's not take up your time and our time and create contentiousness.
"Let us just keep our nose to the grindstone, work hard and do our best not to lay off anybody at this time," Lingle said.
Asked about the possibility of state worker layoffs, Lingle said it is not something she wants to do, but did not rule it out.
"If you ask me if we are going to have layoffs, I say it is too early to say that. That is a last resort because a layoff is a lack of service," Lingle said.
State tax collections for August, which were reported yesterday, show a 7.9 percent decline, for a decrease of $61.3 million, compared with the same period last year.
Tax officials said individual income tax collections were $108 million, an increase of almost 2 percent more than last year, "indicating the economy as gauged by job retention remains steady and slightly ahead of last year."
Lingle disagreed yesterday with state lawmakers, who are calling the budget deficit a "crisis."
"This is the typical management challenge we have over the years. You want to refrain from calling everything a 'crisis,' because you will get people much too worked up. This is something we will manage," Lingle said.
The Republican governor also had some criticism for the Democrats in the Legislature.
"I think the legislators as individuals should refrain from constantly writing me about releasing money when they know there is no money to release," Lingle said.
After news of the budget deficit broke this week, legislators said Lingle has given them a state budget that must be trimmed and that they were forced to cut programs.
Yesterday, Lingle called the Democrats' remarks "laughable."
"To have legislators say they are the ones who tried to hold the line and to say they were the ones who always had to cut is just laughable," Lingle said, adding that "they have been haranguing year in and year out about having me release money."