While battling with local unions over salary increases, Gov. Ben Cayetano is proposing a raise for about three dozen of his top appointed state executives, bumping up their salaries by as much as 29 percent.
Under Cayetanos bill, salaries for all department heads, except the superintendent of education, which the Board of Education approves, would increase from $85,302 to $95,000. The governors chief of staff, Sam Callejo, would have his pay increased from $90,041 to $100,000 under the proposal.
The salaries of deputies and assistants would jump 15 to 29 percent to $90,000. Deputies and officials are paid between $69,748 and $77,966 depending on their position.
If approved by the Legislature, the raise would be the first for state executives in 10 years.
The chairmen of the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees last week acknowledged the awkward timing of the bill, which comes amid contract negotiations by public worker unions and those that represent Hawaiis teachers and the faculty at the University of Hawaii.
Although the state has a contract with the United Public Workers Union, it still is negotiating with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.
"How we handle collective bargaining and those issues should be a fair and equitable approach across the board," House Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Takamine said. "If were going to provide any kind of increases to the top positions, then there needs to be some fairness in terms of, shouldnt there also be for the people working under those employees?"
Takamine said the Legislature faces a number of other budget demands, including appropriations for meeting the Felix consent decree, which arose out of a 1993 lawsuit claiming the state had failed to provide adequate mental health, education and other services to special-needs students.
"As we approach this, we tend to set priorities," said Takamine, D-1st (Hamakua, N. Kohala). "In determining the priorities, we want to be fair whether its public sector employees - whether theyre at the top, at the bottom - or whether its all those other needs were going to have to address in education and elsewhere."
The governors office said pay raises were necessary to keep state officials from pursuing higher paying jobs in the private sector.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi said his committee would also consider the bill in light of other proposals for government pay increases.
"The Senate - at least the majority caucus, the Democratic caucus - has always felt that as far as public employees, were looking at trying to fund the collective bargaining increases," said Taniguchi, D-11th (McCully, Moiliili, Manoa). "Well certainly take a look at the cabinet members."
The bill did not propose a pay raise for the governor, whose salary is $94,780.