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Abercrombie wants to pay less without furloughs

By MARK NIESSE,Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:00 a.m. HST, Jan 26, 2011



Furloughs won't fly under Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, but pay cuts for government workers might.

The Democratic governor will seek a 5 percent reduction in public employee labor costs, which is the equivalent of one furlough day a month, spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz confirmed Tuesday.

Abercrombie's plan would keep government employees working the same amount of time with less take-home pay, generating $88 million annually for a budget that's short a projected $844 million over the next 2½ years.

Most state government employees currently take two monthly furlough days, amounting to pay cuts of about 8 percent or 9 percent.

"The governor doesn't want services to the public disrupted as the furlough Friday situation clearly did," Dela Cruz said.

The proposal will have to be negotiated with public labor unions.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association didn't return several phone calls seeking comment.

The wage reduction plan comes on top of Abercrombie's proposal to end state reimbursements for public workers in Medicare Part B, which would bring in $42 million annually to the state government.

"There needs to be labor savings, or else it will be very difficult to balance the budget," said Sen. David Ige, D-Aiea-Pearl City, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, negotiated furloughs with public labor unions in 2009 as a way to reduce pay and eliminate budget shortages.

Abercrombie has repeatedly said he won't resort to furloughs.

"When you have a furlough situation, you do have some labor savings, but there's also some cost associated with the inconvenience of folks trying to receive public services," said Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa-Poamoho, chairman of the Finance Committee. "He's trying to take a different approach from the past administration by seeking a wage concession."

Negotiations with public labor unions haven't begun yet.

Labor savings could be used to help balance the state budget if contracts are agreed to before the end of this year's legislative session May 5.






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