Hawaii Governor David Ige announced Wednesday that state employees might have to take pay cuts.
“Let me be very frank with you, due to this crisis, the main sources of state revenue have been drastically reduced,” he said. “State government needs to look very different going forward.”
The Democratic governor said he has had ongoing discussions with union representatives and state legislators, but no decision has been made yet.
According to West Hawaii Today, Ige met with six unions to discuss 20 percent pay cuts for public employees — first responders would only see a ten percent pay decrease. The governor and his cabinet would also take pay cuts.
Currently, Hawaii is facing a “$1.5 billion shortfall over the next 15 months” as a result of the tourist and restaurant industries losing money, the Hawaiian newspaper reported.
State Senate President Ron Kouchi (D-Kauai, Niihau) and House Speaker Scott Saiki (D-McCully, Kakaako, Downtown) issued a statement reacting to the public employee pay cut proposal.
“Although Governor Ige has the unilateral authority to impose furloughs and salary cuts, we do not agree with such action. We urge the Governor to obtain better data and analysis before he makes this decision,” the Hawaiian politicians said, according to the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) press release.
“We also urge him to act on all alternatives, just as the National Governors Association did when it called on Congress four days ago to provide an additional $500 billion to the 50 states to stabilize state budgets due to tax revenue shortfalls.”
Also reacting to the news, HSTA held a virtual press conference Wednesday to talk about the 20 percent pay cut. These potential pay cuts could start on May 1 if implemented, according to the HSTA press release.
“Hawaii already has a shortage of over 1,000 teachers. If we cut teachers’ salaries, that will force teachers to retire and our brand-new teachers to leave,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said.
“The state already has over a billion dollars in its cash surplus and its rainy day fund. Governor, it’s raining,” Rosenlee added. “There may be a time when we have to look at budget cuts, and teachers are willing to work with you, but a rash decision can have devastating results.”
The average salary of a teacher is $65,000, according to West Hawaii Today.
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