Mayors rebut Lingle's complaints


POSTED: Thursday, October 08, 2009

The four county mayors shot back yesterday at Gov. Linda Lingle's complaints that they are getting in the way of an agreement between the state and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

“;Any talk of 'mayors not being in sync' with what's been progressing is total hogwash,”; the four said in a news release. “;We are intimately involved and have been in constant discussions with the governor's staff and with the key officials of the HGEA.”;

The mayors were responding to publicized comments from Lingle, who asserts that the deal reached late last week is being delayed by their actions.

“;We understand there are still some delicate issues to be resolved between the employers and HGEA, but none that should be considered deal-breakers,”; the mayors' statement said.

According to several union sources, the HGEA is set to sign a deal with the state and counties that will furlough the 27,300 state and county workers a total of 42 days through 2010.

The workers will not be paid on the furlough days, meaning the HGEA members will see their paychecks shrink by 8 percent.

The contract must be approved by at least one county mayor in addition to the state, but the mayors have said they wanted more clarification on some of the issues.

“;Now that we know what we're agreeing to, we can scrutinize the terms and conditions in consultation with our budget and human resources staffs,”; their statement said. “;We're anxious to conclude the contract talks and expect to reach a decision soon.”;

The process is being watched closely by the United Public Workers, which has yet to reach a deal with the state, and by Hawaii's public education officials. The Hawaii State Teachers Association has already agreed to a contract that includes 17 furlough days a year.

Patricia Hamamoto, state schools superintendent, said yesterday the HGEA plan of 18 furlough days this year and 24 next year would fit within the HSTA furlough plan. She made the comments after a House-Senate legislative hearing on her department's education plans yesterday.

If HGEA members attached to the schools, such as principals, are furloughed for 18 days this year, it is just one more day than the 17 furlough days the teachers accepted.

“;When we marry the calendars, there will be just one day when we don't have the principals there,”; Hamamoto said.

Next year, HGEA workers would be furloughed for 24 days, while teachers are off for 17 days, but Hamamoto said the principals and others can take furlough days during spring break or the Christmas recess.

At the same time, other political leaders and community groups are concerned that the furloughs will hurt Hawaii's public school students.

“;This really represents a failure on the part of the adults,”; said Rep. Roy Takumi, chairman of the House Education Committee. “;The students are going to have to bear the consequences. To simply say you can take away nearly 10 percent of the instructional days and not have an impact is counterintuitive.”;

Also criticizing the deal was the Hawaii State Parent Teacher Student Association, which said the Legislature and Lingle should use other state funds to restore the teacher cuts.