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Lingle looking at more layoffs


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POSTED: Saturday, August 29, 2009

Talks between the state and public worker unions are failing, causing Gov. Linda Lingle to look at a second round of layoffs.

Lingle labeled as “;unacceptable and unrealistic”; yesterday the Hawaii Government Employees Association's offer to take 30 unpaid furlough days during the next two years.

The state had trimmed its wage cut demand of 72 unpaid furlough days to 48. But HGEA countered with 30 days and the demand that the state continue to pay 60 percent of medical insurance costs. State worker medical insurance costs have gone up more than 20 percent this year, but the state has refused to pay any more, forcing public employees to pay for the increase.

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Governor Linda Lingle said she'll have to cut state budgets more and layoff more state workers after response to the state's latest contract offer.

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In a news conference yesterday, Lingle said she would spend the weekend in emergency meetings with her Cabinet to go over ways to cut the state budget and also identify more employees for layoff. The action comes after the state Council on Revenues cut an additional $98 million on Thursday from the state's two-year general fund budget, bringing the shortfall total to $884 million.

“;We must take the difficult step of identifying additional spending cuts, including possible further reduction in force,”; Lingle said in her announcement.

In remarks with reporters, Lingle said she is convinced that the HGEA wants layoffs as opposed to furloughs.

“;I have been doing everything I can to avoid layoffs, but that clearly was not their (HGEA's) priority,”; Lingle said.

“;It was the impression of our negotiating team that the HGEA had made the decision they prefer layoffs to furloughs,”; she said.

HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira defended the union's counteroffer.

“;By rejecting it outright, the governor has clearly shown she is not willing to negotiate and intended to implement layoffs all along,”; Perreira said. “;The governor wants a 'blank check,' and as the economy worsens, she'll continue to demand more cuts from her own employees.”;

Meanwhile, furloughs scheduled to start Tuesday for about 900 nonunion state workers have been delayed until Sept. 16. Lingle planned to delay the furlough start by a month when it appeared a contract settlement might be reached, but reinstated them when talks fizzled.

Republican Lingle also met yesterday with House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua). Hanabusa said Lingle expressed concerns that extra money expected from tax increases approved by the Legislature has not shown up in tax collections.

Hanabusa said the Legislature and the administration are showing slightly different estimates of the size of the new shortfall. “;But a puka is still a puka. From my vantage point, they can probably close the gap if they want to,”; Hanabusa said.

               

     

 

CONTRACT OFFERS

        The latest contract offers in negotiations between the state and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, Hawaii's largest public worker union:
       

STATE OFFER » 48 furlough days

       

» State continues to pay the same dollar amount for medical insurance, but employees pick up extra costs.

       

HGEA OFFER » 30 furlough days

       

» State continues to pay 60 percent of medical insurance costs.