As revenue falls by $112M, Lingle tells unions to settle
POSTED: Friday, October 09, 2009
The latest state tax collection figures show a nearly 10 percent drop, and the bad news is forcing Gov. Linda Lingle to increase her tough talk to the public employee unions to hurry up and settle their contracts.
The governor also said she is willing to look at ways to tap into the state's special funds to "buy down" the public school teachers' 17 furlough days next year to prevent students from losing instruction time.
The Tax Department reported yesterday that the state has taken in about $112 million less in revenue during the first three months of this fiscal year compared with the same period last year.
During an impromptu news conference yesterday, Lingle warned that there will be more state worker layoffs, and singled out the blue-collar United Public Workers to settle its contract with the state.
"The fact that the UPW is dragging on like this is going to force our hand. We're going to have to make some movement soon on that second round of layoffs," Lingle said.
The union has declined to comment on the negotiations.
Lingle said the state has been unable to get together with the county mayors to make one offer to UPW, and the result is brinkmanship.
UPW has 8,800 members in state, county, public school, hospital and court positions as custodians and other blue-collar positions.
"They have the right to strike, and we have the right to implement our last best offer, but because the mayors won't join us in that last best offer, people are questioning our ability to even make an offer. They're saying until you have the mayors, you can't make that offer," Lingle said.
The governor did respond to increasing calls from legislators that the teachers should not be furloughed.
The state has released the lastest tax revenue figures and they are much lower than expected.
State Sen. Gary Hooser, Senate majority leader, is calling for a one-day special session to tap the state Hurricane Relief Fund to pay for the days that teachers would be out on furlough.
"The 17 days of furlough — of our students losing school — is unacceptable. To me that is bottom line," Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau) said. "The only thing I could come up with in talking to my colleagues is to access part of the hurricane fund."
But Senate President Colleen Hanabusa cautioned yesterday that lawmakers "should not build false expectations or false hopes."
"When we are talking about families and their stability, let's make sure we can deliver," Hanabusa warned.
She added that she was "not confident that the governor is on board or that two-thirds of each house is."
Lingle said yesterday she is willing to explore the subject during the 2010 legislative session, but not now.