House Speaker Scott Saiki today announced plans for a special select committee of community and political leaders to prepare contingency plans to cope with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 scare.
“Hawaii will be hit hard because of our proximity to Asia and our fragile economy that relies heavily on imports,” Saiki told his fellow lawmakers at the close of today’s House floor session at the state Capitol.
Saiki told reporters after the session this afternoon that the committee will include business, labor and government leaders, and will be tasked with identifying short-term and long-term mitigation plans. The commitee will be advisory, he said.
Lawmakers have been considering some expensive new initiatives such as teacher pay differentials to boost the salaries of educators in hard-to-fill positions, but Saiki said it is too soon to say if those plans might be put on hold because of the coronavirus threat.
Saiki did say he is determined at all costs to avoid a replay of the public school furloughs that were used to cope with the budget shortfall during the Great Recession that rocked the state in 2008-2009.
“For those of us who were here in 2008 and 2009 during furlough Fridays, we don’t want to see the public have to go through that again,” he said. “That was very traumatic for our students, for parents, for teachers, for everyone.”