HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After layoffs and hiring freezes the state is close to hiring again. Lawmakers found money for nearly 100 state jobs this legislative session. Many will go to depleted departments.
Right now there are only two people inspecting nearly 1,800 taxi cab meters to make sure riders aren't getting ripped off. Those same two guys are also responsible for checking every gas pump and scale in the state to make sure you get what you paid for. It's a heavy burden but soon there will be three new inspectors and a manager to help lighten the load.
"This is a big thing for everyone," said Jeri Kahana, Acting Administrator for Quality Assurance Division.
The Department of Agriculture lost 42 percent of its staff in 2009 cuts but will be getting several positions back including two food safety inspectors, nine plant quarantine inspectors for Kahului Airport, four dog handlers to sniff cargo and 20 inspectors to prevent invasive species and other banned items from coming ashore.
"We are now stable so it's a very happy time for us," said Carol Okada, Plant Quarantine Branch Manager. "We're dealing with a lot of snakes a lot of reptiles coming in. Hiring these inspectors means that we'll be back in baggage claim looking at the passengers, looking at the freight forwarders, doing a better inspection."
"There is a lot of work but it's a much better step right now. With the legislature providing the general fund money to us means we can hire," said Okada.
The number of elevator inspectors is also going up from just seven to 13 which is good for safety and speeding up the permitting process.
"This represents the first major step forward in terms of our ability to restore a sense of safety in a more meaningful manner," said Dwight Takamine, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director.
The Department of Human Services is getting 46 people back including 19 positions for rental housing services, ten positions for vocational and rehabilitation services and two to reestablish a Kona Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program office. It also includes 15 positions in the MedQuest Division which had half its staff cut three years ago at a time when need went up by 35 percent.
"There was a lot of patchwork that we had to do just in terms of restoring basic regulatory and oversight functions of state government," said State Sen. David Ige, (D) Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair.
What was different this year? For the first time in four years state lawmakers didn't face a revenue shortfall more than a billion dollars.
To read more about the state budget and jobs created click here.