Hawaii Governor Wants To Slash First Responders' Pay By 10% To Cover Budget Gap
Honolulu, HI – Hawaiian law enforcement officers and other first responders could see their paychecks slashed by 10 percent in coming weeks in an effort to prevent financial collapse created by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Governor David Ige.
Ige has also proposed cutting salaries for teachers and other state public workers by as much as 20 percent, the Star Advertiser reported.
During a press conference on Wednesday, the governor confirmed that pay cuts and furloughs are being seriously considered, but said that no final decisions have been made.
Ige also vowed that he and his administration would be among the workers who would see their wages decrease, the Star Advertiser reported.
Hawaii State Teacher’s Association (HSTA) President Corey Rosenlee notified union members about the “ominous” proposal in a letter on Tuesday night, KHON reported.
“In a meeting at the state Capitol, we were informed that the governor wants to implement a 20-percent salary cut for most public employees, including educators, and a 10-percent cut for first responders, such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, and EMTs,” Rosenlee wrote. “These cuts could occur as early as May 1.”
If approved, the pay reductions would remain in place for two years, Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) Executive Director Randy Perreira said in a statement, according to the Star Advertiser.
“All public workers deserve support, not pay cuts,” Perreira argued. “They are keeping vital and essential government services running and many are putting their own health and safety at risk because they haven’t been given adequate personal protection equipment (PPE).”
In some areas in the state, deputies have been provided with a single mask, while Department of Land and Natural Resources conservation officers were instructed to use “expired, damaged, moldy and ill-fitting PPE” left over from a 2011 conference, Perreira noted.
According to Ige’s budget and human resources directors, the global pandemic has cut off “a major source of state revenue” that could result in the state suffering an economic collapse, Rosenlee explained, according to KHON.
“We were not given any formal proposal, and it is unclear if the governor intends to implement these cuts as furloughs or across-the-board salary decreases,” the union president noted.
Rosenlee said that Ige’s proposal is unacceptable.
“While we recognize the coronavirus has already started to cripple Hawaii’s economy, no one can be sure of its long-term impacts,” he wrote. “We believe cutting salaries for tens of thousands of state workers is rash and will hurt our state even more.”
Rosenlee noted that Hawaii had a “rainy day fund” totaling more than $1 billion, in addition to a cash surplus at the end of the last fiscal year.
“Congress recently appropriated $863 million to our state government with hundreds of millions more for our counties as part of a $2 trillion stimulus package—and lawmakers are discussing additional stimulus funding,” he added.
Rosenlee said the state government needs to consider alternatives before slashing the wages of first responders and teachers.
“HSTA and other public sector unions have made it clear to the governor that this will exacerbate our weakening economy, hurt government employees, and potentially prolong this crisis,” he wrote. “We stand united and will not accept the governor’s plan without exploring every last alternative to keep these harmful cuts from happening.”
If Ige’s proposal is implemented, it would be the first time the state has resorted to pay cuts since the Great Recession over a decade ago, the Star Advertiser reported.
“We do not agree with this action,” State House Peaker Scott Saiki and Senate President Ron Kouchi told KGMB in a joint statement. “We urge the governor to obtain better analysis before he makes this decision.”
As of Friday, 541 Hawaiian residents had tested positive for coronavirus, and nine have died, according to Bing’s COVID-19 Tracker.