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Governor to wait before raiding hurricane fund


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POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle says she is not against raiding the $180 million Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund to help restore public school furlough days, but she wants to wait until at least next year before considering such action.

“;I haven't completely closed the door on it,”; Lingle said at a news conference yesterday.

“;I think it's going to have to be done in a very cautious way, but I certainly would be willing to talk with legislators about it,”; she added. “;I really want to at least get through this next quarter before we even begin to talk about it.”;

Lingle said by March — when the Council on Revenues issues its third-quarter tax collection forecast — lawmakers should have a clearer picture of where revenues for the fiscal year will end up and whether the money in the Hurricane Fund is needed.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continue exploring ways to reduce the number of furlough days for public school students and teachers.

Under the new contracts ratified by public worker unions, schools are being closed 17 days in each of the next two years. The first closure day was Friday, with the second set for tomorrow.

Tomorrow also is when a special Senate committee formed to investigate alternatives to furloughs has scheduled its first public hearing. The panel is asking members of the community to submit potential options on how to deal with the situation.

Some lawmakers are backing a petition by Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa- Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) to come back into special session this year to find money for education.

Espero says 14 of the Senate's 25 members have backed his effort. A two-thirds' vote by the Senate (17 of 25 members) and House (34 of 51 members) is needed for the Legislature to go back into special session.

“;We have some senators who are supportive of a special session if we can come up with a plan that everyone can agree on, but they feel no need to sign at this stage,”; Espero said. “;We're moving forward with our task force and hearing and we'll see what happens.”;

;[Preview]    Handful of State Senators Push for Special Session
  ;[Preview]
 

A group of state senators wants to borrow money from the state's Hurricane Relief Fund to restore 11 furlough days.

Watch ]

 

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) has said he expects the Legislature to address the issue next session.

It's unknown if the House would have approval from a two-thirds' majority to come back in special session, but a spokeswoman says majority Democrats have scheduled a caucus next week to discuss the matter.

Lingle said she is agreeable to exploring all options, even if it means reopening the newly ratified contract to renegotiate terms and restore furlough days.

 

Residents invited to discuss teacher furloughs at briefing

Hawaii residents are invited to share their opinions on how to address teacher furloughs and the loss of instructional time in public schools at the first meeting of a new Senate committee.

The Special Senate Committee to Consider Approaches to Teacher Furloughs will hold an informational briefing at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at the state Capitol Auditorium. The purpose of the meeting is to get public input on options to deal with the situation.

Public testimony will be limited to four minutes a person. The committee urged that written testimony be submitted vie e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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On the Net:

» The hearing notice can be found at: www.hsblinks.com/16d