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StarBulletin.com

Legislators, take voluntary pay cuts, too


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POSTED: Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cabinet members and other high officials in the Lingle administration have agreed to accept significant pay reductions, a move that should encourage other state employees to accept similar reductions in the form of furloughs. Meanwhile, state legislators who accepted huge wage increases at the first of the year should voluntarily agree to pay cuts.

Gov. Linda Lingle announced the pay reductions of 13 percent for this fiscal year and 13.7 percent for the following fiscal year when included with the 5 percent cuts that were made in salaries of judges and legislators approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Lingle called them furloughs — two days a month off without pay — but the officials are not likely to take days off.

Legislators accepted a 36 percent pay raise at the beginning of the year, bringing their salaries from $35,900 to $48,708 for meeting 60 days over a four-month period. The wages are scheduled to rise to $58,000 by 2014.

The pay hikes were recommended by a commission controlled by legislative leaders. The seemingly innocuous constitutional amendment creating the commission was approved by voters who failed to recognize the consequences.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who reports making between $150,000 to $250,000 a year from her law practice, argues that legislators cannot reduce their government salaries without violating the state Constitution. That does not explain how the legislators were allowed to reduce their salaries by 5 percent during the session in response to public outrage to their pay hikes.

Actually, the pay hikes don't go into effect if legislators vote to reject them. House Speaker Calvin Say called on fellow legislators last October to forgo the pay raise because of the state's budget deficit but he was overcome by members' avarice.

Lingle said she hopes the agreement by 42 executive branch officials, including Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona, “;shows to the public that we are leading by example. To the extent that the unions are part of the community, they should recognize that as well.”; The public-employee unions have rejected furloughs — resulting in pay cuts similar in percentage of those accepted by the executive officials — but accepted a 5 percent wage reduction.

The six Republican members of the Legislature issued a statement saying they decided “;to take a voluntary pay cut equivalent to a two-day furlough.”; Democratic lawmakers should do the same.

The Judiciary should keep arm's length from the issue during the Lingle administration's appeal of a ruling that the issue of furloughs for organized public employees should be subject to collective bargaining.