Lingle: Layoffs 'likely by the end of the week'

Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The issue of furloughs or layoffs is one step closer to being resolved. Gov. Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) said Wednesday afternoon layoff notices to the unions could be sent out by the end of the week if she doesn't receive a formal "on the record" proposal from the four labor unions representing state workers.

The governor says she still think the three days a month furlough plan is the best option for Hawaii. As of Wednesday afternoon, still no formal proposal from any of the unions, and time is running out for state workers.

The state's financial crisis continues to worsen. Tax revenues are down an additional $56.7 million from May's projections.

"So we can't possibly look the same or act the same," said Lingle. "The world has changed. We need to respond to it. There are some people who can't yet accept that the world has changed dramatically over the past year."

Overall the state is looking to close a $786 million financial gap. One way is to cut labor costs either by furloughs or layoffs.

"Likely by the end of the week, we'll have a letter to the unions with a listing and who would be included in those layoffs," said Lingle. "Under our rules, I have to give a notice first to the unions."

They would then give the governor feedback. After that, laid off employees would get approximately 90 days notice.

"The layoffs would be different," said Lingle. "They would be more concentrated because to lay people off in certain departments wouldn't help us with the savings."

That means with the exception of the Deparment of Hawaiian Home Lands, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and the Department of Transportation, other state departments are vulnerable.

"We will not be the same government when we come out of this process," said Lingle. "We can't be the same government we were a year ago and survive financially."

The governor still hopes to solve this problem with furloughs instead of layoffs.

"We continue to believe that furloughs are the right approach to the large deficit that we face," she said. "We feel that gives us the opportunity to get a big part of the savings we need without laying off thousands of people."

She says she's just waiting for union leaders to come to the table and present a formal, "on the record" proposal.

"I've told them any place, any time on any day," said Lingle. "I would make myself available, our team and myself personally, to sit and receive on the record that they'd like to make at this time."

Now state workers continue to wait to see whether the governor or the unions will make the next move.

None of the existing plans account for the additional $56.7 million needed in the new projections. Union leaders had no comment to what the governor had to say.