State supreme court: blocking furloughs was premature

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Too late to affect the current budget crisis, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto was wrong to block Governor. Lingle's state furloughs before a state board reviewed the move.

The state high court voted 4-1 that Judge Sakamoto should not have ruled on the unilateral furlough plan before it was reviewed by the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

Acting Chief Justice Paula Nakayama said the issue was worth a ruling for future guidance even though the various parties in the furlough controversy were later able to negotiate a furlough agreement.

That took months, though, and in the meantime the governor undertook outright layoffs to control state spending at a time when tax revenues were far below expectations driving the government into the red.

Governor. Lingle, in a statement that did not mention Sakamoto by name, directly blamed his ruling for people being thrown out of work.

"As a result," she said, "we were forced to lay off hundreds of state employees."

Attorney General Mark Bennett, in his own statement, said he still believes the original furlough order complied with state law and the state constitution.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association had previously based some of its own arguments on federal law protecting collective bargaining agreements.

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