Unions face furlough ultimatum
POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009
|This story has been corrected. See below.|
The Lingle administration is giving public employee unions until Friday to accept furloughs of up to 37.5 days over the next two fiscal years or face unilateral action by the state, according to state union leaders.
While Gov. Linda Lingle plans to resolve the budget shortfall with $278 million in salary cuts, Democratic legislative leaders are planning to raise the hotel room tax and take all of the money, leaving counties with the choice of raising their own taxes or going without.
As the state Legislature draws to a scheduled May 7 adjournment, the stakes are increasing as both lawmakers and administrators move down separate tracks.
At issue is how to resolve a state budget with a shortfall of nearly $2 billion over the next two years. So far, neither Lingle nor the Legislature is winning praise for their plans to deal with it.
J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, said yesterday his union for UH professors was offered the furlough plan and given a May 1 deadline.
Asked what would happen if the union didn't accept, Musto said, "Their quote was, 'There will be dire consequences.'"
Musto said he was told Lingle was offering the same furlough deal to all public worker unions. The state wanted UH professors to take an unpaid furlough for 32 days and then was told that protecting the benefits of state union retirees would require another 2.5 days of furlough and that there might be a contingency of three more days furlough if the economy worsened.
Marie Laderta, state human resources director, declined to comment, except to say Lingle has "taken the position of no layoffs, no new taxes and she has supported and encouraged furloughs."
While the unions are contemplating the Lingle ultimatum, county officials were summoned to Speaker of the House Calvin Say's office yesterday to hear the latest plan to balance the budget by seizing the hotel room tax money now going to the counties.
"I expressed my concerns about doing that," City Council Chairman Todd Apo said.
Apo said the counties would then have to raise taxes or go without providing public services.
Noting that the counties "are at the mercy of the state" because they can only levy taxes that the state permits, he said that if the counties have to raise taxes, "local residents will pay."
Honolulu county gets $43 million a year in hotel room tax collections.
"This will transfer the tax from the visitors to the local residents," Apo warned.
Legislators have not yet reached any agreement on either the tax bills or the state budget.
Gov. Linda Lingle is asking public workers to accept furloughs of up to 37.5 days during the next two fiscal years, starting July 1. This story originally said the furloughs would be during one year.