Counties keep crucial money, furloughs may be erased - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Counties keep crucial money, furloughs may be erased

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa Sen. Colleen Hanabusa
Sue Haglund Sue Haglund
Mayor Billy Kenoi Mayor Billy Kenoi
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Mayor Bernard Carvalho

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Budget battles. School furloughs and hotel tax money.

Critical votes on both issues, came down late Friday night at the Capitol, with lawmakers burning the midnight oil.

It was a packed house, as all four county mayors and educators anxiously awaited the outcomes that eventually did go their way.

Shortly before midnight, lawmakers made a valiant push to end Furlough Fridays. Their plan is to take $67-million of the $189-million from the Hurricane Relief Fund to eliminate the three furlough days remaining this school year and the 17 days that are scheduled next school year.

"The number is one we believe would be enough funds there for all parties in the negotiation for the upcoming school year at least," Senate president Colleen Hanabusa said.

"If the agreements prove to say there's excess money, we don't need it at all, goes back to the Hurricane Relief Fund, if the agreements say, there's more money needed, that can be addressed next year," Education Committee chairman Norman Sakamoto said.

The money still needs final approval by the full house and senate. Plus, Governor Lingle, the Board of Education and the teachers' union still need to decide to use the funding.

"For two weeks that we've trudged this building the people's building and to have to endure the different angles from all sides, it just shows the triumph of the democratic process," Save Our Schools' Sue Haglund said.

As the clock struck past midnight, lawmakers chose not to withhold a hundred million from the counties share of the hotel room tax.

The mayors sat hand in hand for several hours lobbying for their respective counties.

"It means that the balance budget we all submitted to our county council, hopefully they will follow suit and not have to contemplate additional increases in taxes or cutting services," Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said.

"The basis was taking the TAT from counties was a shift of the tax burden from tourists to each homeowner in the State of Hawaii," Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said.

"It's all leaders of Hawaii coming together and holding on and hanging in there, knowing the that the importance of this issue is going to benefit our people of Hawaii, our counties and visitors as well," Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho said.

In statements released Saturday, HSTA president Wil Okabe and Board of Education chairperson Garrett Toguchi say they're happy that the conference committees decided to approve funding for the furloughs, and add that it is now up to Governor Lingle to release the money needed to restore all 17 furlough days next school year, and possibly even the remaining three for the rest of this year.

We did reach out to Governor Lingle, but she was unavailable for comment.

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