State workers on edge on eve of Governor's budget announcement

Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle
Randy Perreira
Randy Perreira
Jen Shibuya
Jen Shibuya
Garrett Toguchi
Garrett Toguchi

By Duncan Armstrong

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Governor Lingle was working hard this weekend to come up with $185 million to get the State out of the red for this fiscal year.

That has those who are already suffering from the first round of budget cuts on edge.

Last Thursday, the Council on Revenues projected a steeper budget deficit than previously expected - a 9% drop in revenue for this fiscal year.

That's up from the original forecast of 5%. And right now, it's a wait and see game as to where the cuts, if any, will be made.

First, Governor Lingle instructed all State departments to cut spending by 6%, then, another 2%, and now, the Governor says it's still not enough to fill the budget gap.

"you can't just cut, cut, cut and expect people to start feeling better," said Randy Perreira, the head of HGEA, the union that represents state workers.

Perreira says there are other ways to reduce the deficit.

"We're going to have to look at additional revenue. We long advocated to raise the general excise tax in the short or long term," he said.

One of the hardest hit by the shortfall is education.

Jen Shibuya is a special education teacher. She works two other jobs to make ends meet.

"I am always trying to keep up to date on jobs or income that are out there besides teaching," she said.

A few months ago, she and her boyfriend bought a home. While owning a home may mean having security -

"The understanding, even with my parents generation, was that if you work for the state you have a secure job. You have a secure line of work and today, with what's going on, I don't see that. I wonder how much emphasis there is on children's education, so that makes me wonder if I will have a job," said Shibuya.

Board of Education Chair Garrett Toguchi says all of the State's educational programs may now be in jeopardy if the Governor decides to go after them.

"There's no time to furloughs. There's no supply money to be cut at this time. School is ending in about a week. So we are hoping she takes the money from the Hurricane Relief Fund or other sources of revenue that she has access to," Toguchi said.

"The Governor is not looking at this to address the economic situation. She's looking at this in the short term and she is a short termer, she's looking at this in the short term to fix the budget," said Perreira

As the State scrambles to find additional funds, very few want to suffer more cutbacks.

"I am sure that I will find a way to make ends meet. It's just that the children have not had the experience or the education to help get through times like this, and they will lose out," said Shibuya.

Governor Lingle met with her staff throughout the weekend to come up with a plan.

She will address the State on Monday at 1 p.m., which will be broadcast live on KHNL.