Lingle still optimistic about furlough plan

Gov. Linda Lingle
Gov. Linda Lingle

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KAPOLEI (KHNL) -   It's become a waiting game for Hawaii state employees.  They still don't know whether they face: furloughs or layoffs.  Gov. Linda Lingle, R-Hawaii, says the issue must be ironed out soon, or she may be forced to go ahead with layoffs, her only legally-available option right now.

The governor is still optimistic about her furlough plan.  She was hoping to meet with labor leaders this week, but that won't happen until next week.

Members of her cabinet met with three out of four union leaders last week.  The representative for United Public Workers (UPW) was on the mainland and not available.  The governor said Thursday, the situation is getting tougher with each passing month.   Because she couldn't implement her furlough plan in July, she has to make up $30 million in a shorter period of time.

"I'm waiting for the unions to come back next week," said Lingle. "We'll see what they offer but at some point the layoffs will start to occur because we won't have time to make up the savings that we need."

She also anticipates an even greater deficit when the new budget projections come out in September.    State revenues dropped 9.4 percent, about half a percent lower than what the Council on Revenues projected in May.

The governor also plans to appeal Judge Karl Sakamoto's ruling that she cannot implement furloughs without going through the collective bargaining process.

"We think he was not correct in his decision," said Lingle. "People can see things differently. We think the law is clear that any governor has the right to implement furloughs just as you can implement layoffs. You don't need approval to implement layoffs so why should you need approval to implement furloughs?

She expects to meet with union representatives next week to come up with a resolution to the fiscal dilemma.