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Lingle busy with layoffs, talks and duel with Inouye


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Call it the non-showdown at high noon.

Gov. Linda Lingle and the four public worker unions were supposed to meet today, but one union said it would not be there and called it off.

Then Lingle said she would go ahead and expected whoever wanted to show up to come at noon.

So late yesterday the Hawaii Government Employees Association said the meeting was back on, but “;on an informal basis.”;

Last week, Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director, told reporters there was a meeting planned for today. But during the weekend, according to an HGEA spokeswoman, another union leader found a conflict and the meeting was canceled.

Meanwhile yesterday, Lingle made good on her threat to start the three-month process of laying off state workers.

She lowered the number in the first round of projected layoffs to 1,100 from 2,500 but added, “;I remain hopeful that we will not have to undertake large-scale layoffs.”;

The 1,100-layoff figure “;was our first pass to do our best to maintain public safety and health as best we can. ... There was no magic to the number, and it will take a while because of length of process to work itself through,”; Lingle said yesterday, noting that seniority was not an issue in making the list.

While Lingle was moving forward with layoffs, Hawaii's senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye joined the fray, criticizing Lingle.

“;Why should there be layoffs? The program proposed by labor unions saves money and assures that state services continue. Workers are usually laid off if they are no longer necessary. In a period of economic crisis of this nature, you need government employees to assist others,”; Inouye said in a news release from Washington, D.C.

;[Preview]    Latest on the Governor's Layoff Negotiations
  ;[Preview]
 

The state said today that more than 1,100 state workers face possible layoffs because of the budget crisis.

Watch ]

 

Lingle shot back in her own news release, saying Inouye's remarks were “;inappropriate, factually inaccurate and misleading.”;

“;By attempting to insert himself into the labor negotiation process, Sen. Inouye is unnecessarily creating a distraction from the fact that without the implementation of labor savings, the state's fiscal crisis will continue to deepen,”; Lingle said.

According to Lingle's calculations, the proposal that the unions offered last week, a 5 percent pay cut, would amount to $203 million in state savings through two years.

Lingle said “;it is not nearly enough to balance the budget as required by our Constitution, because our current shortfall is $786 million.”;

“;It's a real crisis. It's getting worse with each passing week that we're not able to get things resolved, because the number of months we have left to address it continues to shrink, and that means that cuts have to be that much deeper,”; the governor said.

 


Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.