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Hawaii Public Worker Pay Raises Would Cost More Than $150M


Public worker pay raises under consideration in the Hawaii House and Senate would cost more than $150 million.

Lawmakers must calculate how the state can pay for the proposed raises while coping with a $2.3 billion general treasury budget shortfall, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Democratic Gov. David Ige’s administration should have enough money to pay for the pay increases and balance the budget with savings engineered by lawmakers in May, House Speaker Scott Saiki said.

The House and Senate have scheduled final floor votes Friday for the raises incorporated into a Senate bill, said Saiki, a Democrat.

State tax collections have plummeted as the coronavirus pandemic shut down most of Hawaii's tourist dependent economy.

To offset the lost revenue, lawmakers passed bills last month to steer funding away from vacant state government jobs, move unspent money into the general treasury and substitute borrowed money for cash to pay for housing and other projects.

Lawmakers also authorized Ige to borrow up to $2.1 billion from the Municipal Liquidity Facility, a federal emergency loan program for states and counties lasting up to three years to help cover costs during the pandemic, Saiki said.

Republican House Minority Leader Gene Ward said in a statement that the actions of the state Democrats were “irresponsible.”

Ward said he believed all public worker raises would be delayed until after the pandemic as hundreds of thousands of private sector employees have lost their jobs or experienced decreased work hours.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for a pay raise for anyone in the state of Hawaii while businesses are dying and people are out of work, hungry, and scared," Ward said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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