Senators aim to cut pay from top


POSTED: Thursday, April 09, 2009

When it comes to pay, two Senate committees are starting to chop from the top.

;[Preview]  Salaries Of Hawaii’s Executives Face Pay Cuts

State Senators advanced a bill that may cut 5% pay cuts for all state lawmakers, the governor, the governor's top executives, and judges.

Watch  ]


The Senate Judiciary and Ways and Means committees approved their version of a bill to take 5 percent out of the pay of the governor, all state judges and all legislators.

House Bill 1536 initially called for a pay freeze for the governor, lieutenant governor, department heads or deputies, judges and lawmakers, but the Senate committees voted yesterday to cut the pay by 5 percent and freeze their salaries until the end of 2011.

Legislators had been criticized for taking a pay raise that brought their salaries to $48,708 from $35,900 this year. If the new proposal goes into effect, it would reduce their salaries to $46,272 a year.

Gov. Linda Lingle would see her salary go to $117,306 from $123,480, and the chief justice's pay would drop to $156,727 from $164,976.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, Ways and Means Committee chairwoman, said the pay cut was a reflection of the need for government officials to share in the state's economic pain.

The state is dealing with a budget that has lost nearly $2 billion in expected tax revenue. In reaction, Lingle has called for public worker pay and benefit cuts, while the Legislature is looking at program reductions and raising taxes.

“;The Senate feels that if everyone else is going to have to chip in and make cuts to the budget and possibly increase taxes, we felt we have to participate,”; Kim said.

In private, senators have been reluctant to give up the raises because legislators had gone 12 years without an increase in pay.

Senators met Tuesday in caucus and decided to move ahead with the pay change.

Lingle hailed the decision yesterday, saying, “;We support it and we think it is a good idea.”;

There may be some question as to whether legislators can actually change their own salary.

The state Constitution says the Legislature's pay is “;as prescribed by the commission on legislative salaries.”;

It goes on to say that “;any change in salary which becomes effective shall not apply to the Legislature to which the recommendation for the change in salary was submitted.”;

Asked about that yesterday, Kim conceded, “;We really can't vote on our own salaries.”;

But she added, “;I believe, in this situation, it is a freeze and a cut and we think we can do it.”;

According to the proposal, the state salaries would be frozen at the Jan. 1 level and would remain at that level until 2012. At that time, the recommendations from the Salary Commission would kick in.

Legislators' pay would then go to $54,000. The pay rate would increase to $57,852 by 2014.

The unfrozen governor's pay would climb to $143,748 by July 2012 and the Supreme Court chief justice's pay would be $213,840 by the middle of 2012.