State of Hawaii

Cayetano urges patience
in settling bonus flap

It is not clear that the bonus is owed,
he says, and besides, there is no money

By Crystal Kua

A 3 percent salary bonus for public school teachers in the final year of their collective-bargaining agreement is still in dispute, so calling the Legislature into special session to appropriate money for it is not needed, Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday.

"If anything, negotiations have to take place, and so until there is some kind of agreement, I think there's no justification for a special session," the governor said. "And even if there was agreement, I think that the money should be paid perhaps retroactively by an appropriation in the next regular session of the state Legislature."

Cayetano commented after calls for a special session were made earlier in the week by Russell Okata, leader of the state's largest public-employee union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who is running for governor, also called for the bonuses to be paid.

The call for a special session came after the state Department of Education informed the teachers union that it had no money to pay for the $11 million in bonuses to 6,675 eligible teachers because it had to use existing funds to cover a $32 million budget shortfall.

The controversy over the bonus for teachers with master's degrees and professional diplomas came out of the contract that settled last year's three-week teacher strike. The dispute delayed implementation of the rest of the contract for several months.

The governor and the union were at odds over whether the bonuses were to be paid once or twice.

Cayetano's position was that the state agreed that the bonus was a one-time payment, while the teachers union said the bonus was supposed to be paid in the third and last year of the contract.

In February the Hawaii Labor Relations Board ordered the first year of the bonus paid. But the issue of a second round of bonuses must be taken back to the bargaining table.

Cayetano said yesterday that the labor board ruled "the parties should negotiate if there's money available from the federal impact aid for a second-year bonus. We should be careful to note that there is no agreement on any bonus and what that bonus might be at this particular time."

Union officials were out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment.

Cayetano said that the gubernatorial candidates wanting to jump into the debate should "look at the at the state's fiscal condition and ... analyze some of the cuts that have already been made to the Department of Education before they consider paying out bonuses or anything else."

Cayetano said that the money for the bonuses will have to come out of the DOE's budget in some form.

"It's a question of priorities," he said. "If the next Legislature wants to put (the bonuses) in and take something else out, I think it's up to them."

State Department of Education

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