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State departments urge Senate to restore vacant positions

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:26 p.m. HST, Mar 19, 2013

Heads of Hawaii state departments are urging lawmakers to reverse the state House’s decision to cut more than 900 vacant positions from department budgets.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is meeting today to hear testimony about the House’s $23.25 billion biennial budget draft, which falls about $590 million short of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request. 

The House proposal adds funding for various positions and programs at state departments but removes funding for hundreds of positions that have been vacant for two years or more. 

Lawmakers are facing backlash from state department heads who say the cuts are indiscriminate and harmful.

“You are always going to see a certain percentage of vacancies in each department,” Barbara Krieg, director of Department of Human Resources Development, told senators on Tuesday. “Simply looking at an across-the-board date or percentage doesn’t take into account the needs from every department.”

The departments of natural resources, public safety, human resources and health each stand to lose funding for more than 100 positions. The exact amount of the potential funding loss was not yet available.

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke has said the committee chose to remove funding for vacancies to increase fiscal transparency because departments have been using the money for purposes such as vacation buyouts.

But Krieg argues that the length of time that a position is empty isn’t a reflection of how important it is.  She says many employees take over the responsibilities of vacant positions which may provide critical services.

Several department heads told senators that some positions that were removed are in the process of being filled or have already been filled by temporary employees.

Dwight Takamine, head of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, says that more than 80 percent of the department’s budget relies on federal funding. He says the House’s move to slice just 11 positions will have strong ramifications in light of looming federal cuts.

Members of the executive branch also prodded the Senate to fund the governor’s highly publicized new preschool program and innovation initiative. 

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism testified that Waikiki is running out of hotel rooms and that Abercrombie’s so-called HI Growth Initiative is needed to help the business community keep pace with growth.  

Executive Office of Early Learning Director Terry Lock urged lawmakers to appreciate the importance of early childhood development and the potential benefits of a school readiness program.

Luke has said that the House Finance Committee did not include any funding in the initial budget draft for proposals that have yet to pass the Legislature, including collective bargaining appropriations.

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allie wrote:
Hope the pre-school plan makes it. It is a small amount o ask for something that could make a huge difference to DOE performance while creating greater education al equity and well being. Odd that it not pass many years ago. Most states have it/.
on March 19,2013 | 11:38AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Taxpayer-paid babysitting, hon
on March 19,2013 | 12:19PM
what wrote:
If our DOE can't get K-12 right, they won't get Pre-K right. Our DOE will run it like a babysitting service. Don't expand the already bloated, wasteful, blackhole DOE bureucracy that can't do anything right.
on March 19,2013 | 12:34PM
allie wrote:
DOE won' t run the pre-k hon. Read the bill
on March 19,2013 | 01:24PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Even worse. The plan is to shovel public money to insider private operators. The same well connected and influential group that has been lobbying for this boondogggle.
on March 19,2013 | 01:52PM
allie wrote:
man, you are behind the times. You have a great deal of reading to do
on March 19,2013 | 01:25PM
kauai wrote:
allie, I think you're out of touch on this one. I think you have a great deal of reading to do regarding test results from the public school students. Seems that the more money that gets thrown to DOE, the worst the results get. Rewarding sub-optimal performance/results does not make sense. A full, total and comprehensive external audit of the DOE is what's needed; and then implement the recommendations that results from the audit. Certainly there are many competent, hard working teachers "down in the trenches" doing their darnest to teach the students. However, I wonder about all the bureaucracy above the classroom teachers. Oh, and parents have got to take their equal share of responsibility to make sure their kids study and do their homework assignments.
on March 19,2013 | 03:00PM
tiki886 wrote:
Where is the proof that Head Start and other expensive government babysitting service has produced any benefits or success?
on March 19,2013 | 12:45PM
allie wrote:
tons of evidence
on March 19,2013 | 01:24PM
nalogirl wrote:
Really, well how about this evidence that was in the SA this week that said that Pre-K is nothing but babysitting and parents don't take it seriously. According to the article, some chaildren had over 30 absenses. Give me a break, take care of your own kids.
on March 19,2013 | 02:17PM
allie wrote:
what on earth...huh?
on March 19,2013 | 02:53PM
what wrote:
Government run Pre-K has too many students per adult. It doesn't work. If our DOE can't get K-12 right, they won't get Pre-K right. Don't expand money-sucking blackhole DOE bureaucracy.
on March 19,2013 | 12:32PM
allie wrote:
it is not run by the govt. Read the bill.
on March 19,2013 | 01:25PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
None of us want this, hon
on March 19,2013 | 01:52PM
allie wrote:
we all do
on March 19,2013 | 02:54PM
kiragirl wrote:
WHO will be paying for this? That is the question.
on March 19,2013 | 02:19PM
allie wrote:
the budget is a public-private one. It has been described in past SA articles. Millions in parent fees (from upper income parents, private gifts, foundation giving, etc will join public money to get any kids ready who want the help. Most families want it
on March 19,2013 | 02:55PM
Fred01 wrote:
Our state government is out of control. The budget is over five-times what it should be for a state of this size. And the legislature wants to add more government? Wake up sheeople.
on March 19,2013 | 12:50PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Time to cut these positions. If a Department needs these hires let them request again. If they haven't filled these vacancies in 2 years, its like old clothes, they don't fit any more.
on March 19,2013 | 02:22PM
kauai wrote:
Right O. It's an austerity environment now. Work harder and smarter with what you have. Shift personnel around to other departments that need them; have floating positions; flexibility is the new normal. The labor unions have to get on board or get out of the way.
on March 19,2013 | 03:10PM
hanoz808 wrote:
cut the positions! like it's stated above, how important are they if they aren't filled?
on March 19,2013 | 03:01PM
copperwire9 wrote:
They haven't been filled because the departments' budget were cut.
on March 19,2013 | 03:17PM
emagination808 wrote:
"departments have been using the money for purposes such as vacation buyouts." This statement says it all. These departments don't want to lose there slush funds. It has nothing to do with filling vacancies.
on March 19,2013 | 03:15PM
bumba wrote:
The State has no money. They're using it to give the legeslators raises. Pretty damn sicknening.
on March 19,2013 | 03:36PM
bumba wrote:
State no more money. They need it for the legislators' raises.
on March 19,2013 | 03:36PM
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