Thursday, January 28, 1999

Gov would
offer cash to cut
work force

An employee would get
up to $25,000 to leave the job,
and that position then
would be abolished

By Pat Omandam


Saying traditional ways to cut the size of government may not be enough, the Cayetano administration has proposed allowing department heads to offer incentives of up to $25,000 to get people to leave state government.

The bill was among several introduced in the Senate as part of Gov. Ben Cayetano's administration package.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature Among them is Senate Bill 1047, which would encourage department heads to authorize voluntary separation incentives as the last step to restructure or reorganize an agency's work force.

Basically, any civil service employee may apply for the plan if offered by his or her department.

The incentive payments would equal four weeks of salary if the employee has less than two years of service, or four weeks plus an additional week of salary for every year worked, with a maximum of 21 weeks of salary or $25,000.

The incentive, however, can neither be used by a state employee terminated for disciplinary reasons nor to calculate retirement benefits.

Moreover, anyone who agrees to the plan cannot work for the government within five years of separation or must reimburse the incentive pay.

Once the employee leaves the department, that position would be abolished and the salary for that job would be returned to the general fund.

Russell Okata, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, today said the incentive proposal does have some benefits, but the union still must review it fully before backing the plan.

"Generally speaking, we're supportive of the idea," Okata said.

The separation incentive in the legislative proposal is based on federal actions and studies over the past decade that show government employee buyouts were found to generate more than $60,000 in net savings per buyout over a five-year period.

It showed those who accepted the plan tended to have more years of service, receive higher pay, and be older and closer to retirement and Social Security benefits.

Today, John Radcliffe, associate executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the 3,150-member faculty union, said UHPA has proposed such measures in the past, including the early state retirement bill earlier this decade.

"I don't know if $25,000 is a good amount, but it is $25,000 more than they have offered before," Radcliffe said.

Meanwhile, both unions opposed another measure, Senate Bill 1040, which would restrict the practice of "bumping" among state employees to the department they are in. Moreover, the bill says, any employee who uses his seniority to "bump" another would have to accept the pay of the lower-earning job, not the pay currently received.

Other bills proposed include a performance bonus for any appointed official for job excellence. Senate Bill 1045 calls for a year-end bonus from departmental savings, with the governor determining the amount of the bonus.

The bonus cannot exceed 10 percent of the appointee's salary.

In a related bill, Senate Bill 1043, the governor proposed the Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, the chief executives of the state and the counties, and the Hawaii health systems chief executive determine the pay for all managerial white-collar employees in their jurisdictions.

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