EXCLUSIVE: Gov. ends extra Xmas Eve, New Years Eve holiday - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Gov. ends extra Xmas Eve, New Years Eve holiday

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Gov. David Ige is breaking years of Christmas tradition and will not give state employees a free end-of-the-year holiday this year, just a few weeks after taking office.

The new governor, who campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility, is sending a strong message to both state employees and state taxpayers on Christmas Eve.

Ige spent Christmas Eve morning working in his office on the 5th floor of the State Capitol. If they didn't cash in a vacation day, many fellow state employees had to work on this Christmas Eve as well, because Ige ended previous governors' tradition of granting them an extra day off either on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve.

"There is a real cost for a holiday and it's about more than $11 million. And really what is in the best interest of the taxpayer?" Ige told Hawaii News Now in an interview Wednesday.

Former Governors Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, and Linda Lingle, a Republican, both gave employees a bonus holiday on one of the eves each year, allowing them to either work half days on both eves or combine the time and take one extra day off.

Ige said his message to state employees is simple.

"They have very good benefits. They are entitled to 21 days of vacation. We would encourage them to really look at the holidays and make the decision about whether they want to have time off. And utilize their benefits," Ige said.

State employees who refused to be identified said they are upset about losing the extra holiday, because it's something they've come to expect for many years and they just found out about the new policy late last week.

In a memo to state department directors and deputies Dec. 18, Human Resources Director James Nishimoto wrote, “We urge each department to be as liberal as possible in approving employees' requests to utilize vacation or other paid leave during the holiday season, as operations permit.”

At Honolulu Hale, Mayor Kirk Caldwell is allowing city employees to take an extra day off on either Christmas or New Years Eve, and neighbor island counties are giving workers a similar bonus holiday this year

But Ige said it's not a good time to be loose with money.

"The fiscal reality is that over at least the next three years, we, based purely on obligated legal requirements, non-discretionary spending, we will be spending more than we are expected to take in," Ige said.

The budget Ige submitted to the legislature this week relies on carried over savings from previous years to balance the budget for the next two years, even though the state will be spending more money than it is taking in.

"I applaud the governor. The governor is representing the taxpayers," said State Sen. Sam Slom, the State Senate's only Republican. "There are so many benefits already given to those of us in office or working for the state. We should be grateful for what we've got, enjoy that and support the governor in hopefully turning the fiscal situation around because we are facing some very difficult problems. Every little bit helps."

“The politicians that are giving time and all that, it's not their time, it's not their money, it's the taxpayers,” said Slom, a member of the Senate Ways and Means committee that Ige chaired for the last three years. “He recognizes that.”

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