Beginning Jan. 1, Gov. David Ige announced today that more than 10,000 state employees will be furloughed two days out of every month in an attempt to balance the state budget during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state faces a projected $1.4 billion shortfall over each of the next four years, the governor said.
About 10,160 executive branch employees will be subject to the furloughs. The number will be even larger when Department of Education and University of Hawaii employees are included, beginning with furloughs for their employees scheduled to begin Jan. 1, Ige said.
Ige and his cabinet members are taking pay cuts of 9.23% that are commensurate with the two-day-a-month furloughs. Their pay cuts will begin Jan. 1 and appear in their Jan. 20 pay checks.
“If the furlough is effective for one year, the state will save about $300 million. This is the last major element of the balanced budget that I am required to submit to the state Legislature every December,” said Ige. “The pandemic has had harsh economic impacts on our country, and as a result, every state is having to make difficult choices. Hawaii is among the hardest hit states in terms of job loss and lower economic activity, because of the state’s reliance on tourism.”
There are numerous exemptions to the furloughs including first responders, Hawaii firefighters and others who work in “24/7” operations such as public hospitals, jails and correctional facilities.
The furloughs also will not apply to workers funded with non-general fund sources. They include about 4,600 employees who are first responders, medical and public safety personnel and employees at the departments of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Transportation.
The furloughs are budgeted to save about $300 million annually and, ideally prevent layoffs, which remain a possibility.
“We explored all other options for balancing the budget and have tried to avoid furloughs,” Ige said. “I know how hard state employees have been working during this difficult period and I realize how much distress this will cause our employees and their families. However, the harsher alternative to furloughs is layoffs, which has already complicated the lives of thousands of fellow citizens who work in the private sector.”
He emphasized that the planned furloughs will be rescinded once the budget picture improves.
Gov. David Ige held a press conference at 1:30 p.m. today to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Watch Ige’s budget announcement in the livestream video above or on Ige’s facebook page.
Editor’s Note: This story is developing and will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.