Governor repeats threat of layoffs


POSTED: Sunday, July 05, 2009

Unless circumstances change, Gov. Linda Lingle says she doesn't see how public employee layoffs can be avoided.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto on Thursday ruled Lingle's plan to cut $688 million from the state budget in the next two years through monthly three-day furloughs violates the state Constitution. He said she should first try to negotiate with the public worker unions.

Labor unions tentatively expect to have a federal mediator present to resume contract talks tomorrow with the administration.

But Lingle said the administration team will only meet with union leaders if they give her a formal, on-the-record proposal. They have said they want an informal, off-the-record session, she said. “;The ball is in the unions' court,”; she said yesterday after the Kailua Fourth of July parade. “;We need a real proposal like we made to them.”;

Lingle said the unions presented “;a false picture”; in telling the news media that she wouldn't negotiate union contracts.

Union leaders did not return calls yesterday asking for comment.

Lingle said the state made a formal proposal to the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers June 16 and they've never responded. The mayors submitted proposals with the state's, some the same and some different, she said.

The state proposal covered wages, layoffs, overtime, vacations and the usual items included in a contract, she said. Furloughs weren't mentioned because the administration thought the governor had the authority to furlough workers for a “;fiscal emergency.”; She still maintains she does.

Lingle said she is waiting for the final order from Judge Sakamoto before deciding whether to appeal his decision.

Lingle said she will submit a proposal tomorrow to the Hawaii State Teachers Association from the state, Board of Education and schools superintendent.

She said she hasn't yet received a proposal from University of Hawaii President David McClain and the Board of Regents that she can present to the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

The public school system and UH are governed by independent boards. Lingle is cutting the budgets for the Department of Education and UH system, but their boards must make their own decisions on furloughs, layoffs or other ways to reduce expenses.

Lingle's staff is working through the weekend to try to find savings in state departments and labor contracts to avoid layoffs as much as possible, she said.




Palin's walking off the job was surprise to most, including Lingle

        Gov. Linda Lingle, who helped introduce Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin during the Republican National Convention in September, said she didn't know the Alaska governor planned to resign at the end of this month.

“;I was as surprised as anyone,”; Lingle said yesterday. “;I wish her and her family well.”;


As for herself, Lingle said she's never left a political office until the last day of her term and she doesn't intend to break that record as governor.


Helen Altonn, Star-Bulletin