Furloughs of thousands of state employees — scheduled to begin Jan. 1 — could be postponed until July if a COVID-19 funding bill in Congress provides Hawaii with millions of dollars in COVID-19 funds, taking some pressure off of an already strained state budget, Gov. David Ige said today.
A draft of Congress’ stimulus bill does not cover direct funding for states, city and counties. But the pressure to begin furloughs with the New Year could be pushed back six months if Hawaii receives “hundreds of millions” of federal dollars for COVID-19 relief, such as state-budgeted COVID-19 vaccinations and contract tracers, Ige said.
Ige hoped Congress passes the funding tonight and it gets to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature soon.
Faced with projections of $1.4 billion deficits over each of the next four years, Ige’s budget for the 2021-2023 biennium calls for $276.4 million in reduced operating spending in fiscal year 2022 and $171.8 million less for the 2023 fiscal year. The total operating budgets would be $15.417 billion in fiscal year 2022 and $15.521 billion in fiscal year 2023.
Ige will also ask the Legislature for $7.686 billion in general funds for fiscal year 2022 and $7.798 billion in fiscal year 2023. The amounts represent a 4.5% reduction of $361.9 million from the current level appropriated for fiscal year 2021; and 3.1% —or $249.6 million — for the next fiscal year.
Ige encouraged everyone to use caution in celebrating the holidays and said his children will not come home for Christmas and New Year’s, the first time ever.