Tuesday, March 9, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Pay raises for educators
pushes up budget plan

By Mike Yuen


The state will be spending more money under the budget passed by the House Finance Committee.

The reason: primarily to fund collective-bargaining pay increases for university professors and public schoolteachers.

The House is to vote on the budget Thursday.

House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Hilo) said details will be provided today as to how much more would be spent in the upcoming fiscal biennium, which begins July 1.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature But Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki), an economist who sits on House Finance, estimates that the proposed budget would mean spending at least 7 percent, or roughly $210 million, more in each of the next two years than what is being spent this year.

Fox and his GOP colleagues on the Finance Committee said the Democratic majority still hasn't done enough to slash the size of government, although both sides agree that attrition is preferable to layoffs.

"There are so many big bills still out there for tax breaks for job creation," said House Minority Leader Barbara Marumoto of Waialae Iki. "I don't think we really have cut enough to offer those tax breaks that we need."

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Kahaluu) added: "We're just unwilling to reduce the number of state workers."

Still to be factored into the budget equation are more than $225 million in negotiated retroactive pay raises pending for unionized state workers represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers.

Marumoto, Fox and Meyer gave their OK -- but with strong reservations -- yesterday when the committee approved a $12 billion operating budget for the next two fiscal years.

Disagreeing with the GOP's assessment, Takamine said, "I think that when we look at the austere times that we're in, that this is a fiscally responsible budget. I think government, like any family, has to learn to live within its means."

The House budget cuts Gov. Ben Cayetano's general-fund budget request by 1.6 percent, or nearly $51 million, in fiscal 1999-2000 and 2.0 percent, or more than $65 million, in fiscal 2000-01.

But while there are overall cuts to Cayetano's request, there were adjustments to benefit education -- specifically an increase of $1.5 billion over the fiscal biennium for the Department of Education and $6 million for the University of Hawaii.

Rural health care also got budget "add-ons," Takamine said.

There will be "real" increases -- not just pay raises for instructors -- to bolster lower and higher education, he added.

They include, at the recommendation of the Board of Education, $3 million in each year of the fiscal biennium to establish performance-based standards and $10 million to reduce the student-teacher ratio, Takamine said.

"When you talk about accountability in education, this will provide the tools, the mechanism, to actually measure and evaluate student progress," Takamine added. The House budget also cuts Cayetano's proposal of $300 million in public works spending in each of the next two years to $200 million annually.

If that reduction isn't maintained, by the year 2003 one out of every $6 in the general fund would be used for paying off the debt service, Takamine said.

"What we would be doing would be locking future Legislatures into a situation where to provide for all of the remaining needs, there would be very little discretionary funding," Takamine said.


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