Government worker unions upset over proposed benefit cuts - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Government worker unions upset over proposed benefit cuts

House Speaker Calvin Say House Speaker Calvin Say
Angie Hashimoto Angie Hashimoto
Randy Perreira Randy Perreira

By Sean Ibara

HONOLULU (KHNL) - With the State facing a $2 billion dollar budget shortfall this upcoming fiscal year, legislators are trying to come up with ways to balance the budget. And that heavy burden may fall on tens of thousands of government employees under a number of bills designed to reduce health and retirement benefits.

It was standing room only at a House Labor Committee hearing, as legislators heard testimony from both union representatives and individuals on several controversial bills.

The package of about 40 bills was introduced by House Speaker Calvin Say, who says all options need to be put on the table.

"I know it's very unpopular, but somebody has to do it, to take a leadership role, and I took the leadership role by becoming the lightning rod for all of our public employees", said Say.

One of the more unpopular bills would cut off insurance benefits for all employees who retire after July 1st, regardless of how many years the employee earns, leaving many with decades of public service under their belt wondering if now is the time to retire.

Angie Hashimoto, an educational assistant at King Intermediate, said "a lot of these people are committed and dedicated. They wouldn't retire if they didn't have to because we love our jobs. We chose to be public servants."

Union leaders are obviously upset with the proposals.

HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira commented, "after working a career in government doing all your financial planning, finding that way to send your kids to college. Now they're suggesting to bail the state out of the economic mess that we're in, we should cut the benefits, cut medical benefits, cut retirement, it's just wrong-headed and very wrong-hearted.

But Say maintains that during this tough period, preserving jobs is the number one priority.

"I can respect what their position is. I can understand why they are so concerned, but the intent was never to hurt people. But really to try and preserve the warm body policy in state government.

House Labor Chair Karl Rhoads recommended the bills be put on hold.

Hearings on similar legislation continue early next week.

Powered by Frankly