Saturday, May 5, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Pay raises for
teachers funded
by trade-offs

The Legislature did not
have enough money to
pay for everything

By Richard Borreca
and Rosemarie Bernardo

THE $300 MILLION needed to fund state employee pay raises killed or delayed projects ranging from more computers for schools to $3 million needed to staff and furnish a library for Kapolei, Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday.

Legislature Cayetano said that the pay increase was the major reason items were cut from the state's $3.4 billion budget.

But Joan Husted, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said: "It takes two people to make a collective-bargaining agreement. If this is the governor's feeling, then he has to share the blame."

Every analysis the union did clearly stated there were sufficient funds to pay for all of it, she added.

Cayetano said that besides cutting things from the budget, the pay raises forced legislators to drop income tax credits that he had asked for when the Legislature opened in January.

The Legislature concluded its session Thursday, with Cayetano giving it high marks for passing a government-reform measure but still critical of the state budget process.

"This is a problem we have down in the Legislature," Cayetano said.

"They focus on pay raises," he said, "often to the exclusion of everything else for everyone else. Hopefully next year, they will take a broader look at how they affect the community at large."

House and Senate leaders have previously criticized Cayetano for not including money for pay raises when he submitted the budget to the Legislature in January.

"It was very disappointing that $4.5 million in textbooks was rejected and $21 million in computers for the schools was rejected. These are all victims of giving pay raises," Cayetano said.

Next year, Cayetano said, the Legislature should look more toward cutting government expenses so more programs can be added.

For instance, Cayetano said, the move to change the state workers health fund will save millions.

"The steps to reform the health fund are the kind of steps the Legislature and the executive have to take to be able to find ways to fund the pay raises," Cayetano said.

Cayetano added, however, that he would not allow the Legislature to rescind their health fund bill or a second measure allowing state and county government to privatize state jobs.

"If they repeal it next year, they will have to override my veto. But I don't think they would override it. They have mustered the votes to pass it, and they sense the urgency in reforming the health fund. There is a lot of money that can be saved," Cayetano said.

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