State mayors and unions meet informally

Marie Laderta
Marie Laderta
Randy Perreira
Randy Perreira
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares
Governor Lingle
Governor Lingle

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The strain continues to come up with the state's $730 million shortfall. Unions, state officials and the four Hawaii mayors met Monday to come up with a solution.

At stake is nearly 2,500 state jobs the governor may cut if she doesn't find other funds for the deficit.

Union leaders say despite this being an informal dialogue and the state's negotiator walking out, there was progress.

Welcome to the waiting game. It's where the press pace and then they chase. The governor's chief labor negotiator walked out of the closed door conversation after less than an hour.

"The unions aren't willing to have on the record discussions at this time, so we are excusing ourselves," said Human Resources Director Marie Laderta.

The governor says unions aren't taking the situation seriously.

"It was the governor and staff that chose not to participate, so I think the shoe is on the other foot very clearly," said HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira.

Last week a circuit judge ruled Governor Lingle's 15,000 mandated furloughs were unconstitutional. Days later, representatives from the Hawaii Government Employees Association, United Public Workers, Hawaii State Teachers Association and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly say their informal talk was positive.

"Discussions were fruitful and the discussions were meaningful," said a UPW member.

"Now there's dialogue, there's an appreciation," said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

"We're hopeful we can reach an amicable solution," said Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi.

The state's four mayors stress this cash crunch is a shared sacrifice. City and county programs and services have been cut statewide to balance each of their budgets.

"They're not in this boat by themselves, bailing water, they have other people in the same situation," said Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares.

The state's financial foundation is shaky, leaders claim the cure is common ground.

"To balance the budget, make sure we demonstrate the level of government services people want to see and that we're willing to make cuts ourselves," said Hannemann.

Unions are scheduling another meeting sometime in the immediate future. But, if its an informal one, state participation is unlikely.

Governor Lingle has demanded that unions draft formal written proposals and participate in "on the record" discussions.