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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, March 25, 2004

Lingle opposes financing raises for state workers

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday she would recommend the Democratic-controlled Legislature not authorize pay raises for state white-collar workers if a binding arbitration panel, as she expects, awards increases the state can't afford.

Lingle said she has an opinion from the attorney general's office that she is free to protest the results of an arbitration award, even though her administration participated in the binding arbitration process.

The governor said she has suggested the four county mayors get an opinion from their county attorneys on whether they also could recommend their councils not finance the award if they feel it is excessive.

"Obviously, we'll wait to see what the official settlement is," she said. "But based on indications I have, it is something that we would have to oppose because we can't afford it without some sort of drastic cuts."

Lingle said that under state law, binding arbitration awards or labor agreements that are negotiated jointly are voided if the Legislature or any of the county councils refuses to pay for it, sending the parties back to the bargaining table.

The award from a three-member arbitration panel is expected to be delivered Monday, a week late, to state and Hawai'i Government Employees Association officials, state chief negotiator Ted Hong told lawmakers yesterday.

This all comes as the Senate finalizes its draft of the supplemental state budget bill and prepares for negotiations with the House on a final draft.

The HGEA, representing 23,000 state and county employees, sought a two-year contract with 4 percent pay hikes in each year and step increases, while the state offered no pay increase in the first year and a 1 percent increase in the second year.

State Budget and Finance Director Georgina Kawamura told the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday that if the union gets what it asked, under the state's current financial plan, the state's budget would be $17 million in the hole in the next fiscal year, $162 million shy in 2006 and $202 million down in 2007.

HGEA deputy executive director Randy Perreira called the comments by Lingle and Kawamura "a little disappointing."

"Despite the fact that other bargaining units have received increases through arbitration, she's (Lingle) picking on the lowest paid of the government employees, the clerical workers, and suggesting they are not deserving of a pay increase, yet her Cabinet may get increases," he said.

The state's Executive Salary Commission in February recommended pay increases for the governor, lieutenant governor and Cabinet members — the first increase in 14 years.

Lingle said she believes the state is close to a contract agreement with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which represents faculty members, who have threatened a strike if their demands are not met.