Posted tagged ‘pay raises’

Guv signs pay bill; Hanabusa continues house hunt

May 31, 2011

Catching up on a couple of things …

With no fanfare, comment or drama Gov. Neil Abercrombie wisely signed HB 575 to continue 5 percent pay cuts for legislators, administrators and judges for two more years, matching the cuts being asked of unionized public workers.

The measure also continues a freeze on all step increases top state officials would have received since Jan. 1, 2009; if the governor had vetoed the bill, on July 1 legislators would have received 12 percent raises, administrators 17 percent and judges 28.5 percent.

What seemed a simple matter at the beginning of the legislative session became bogged down in maneuvering between the House and Senate and failed to pass out of conference committee.

In the session’s final days, the House accepted a Senate version that many members thought was legally flawed to avoid the public wrath that would surely come if elected officials got pay raises while demanding sacrifices of everybody else.

Abercrombie’s signature suggests the attorney general thinks the measure is legally defensible, and hopefully, we’ve heard the last of this for a couple of years …

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa continues to plug away at keeping her campaign promise to move into the 1st Congressional District she represents.

According to her spokeswoman Ashley Nagaoka, Hanabusa has been holding open houses to sell her Ko Olina home, with the intent of using the proceeds to buy in CD1.

“Until that happens she will have to rent an apartment,” Nagaoka said. “She has narrowed her apartment search down to one building in Honolulu, but I can’t give you the name of the building for security purposes.”

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Legislators extend their pay cuts — for now

May 6, 2011

Well, true to the word of some of our friends who post here, the Legislature extended the 5 percent pay cut on lawmakers, administrators and judges for two more years when the House accepted Senate amendments to HB 575.

I’m glad they did the right thing — for now anyway. The issue may not be settled, with legislators raising ominous questions about “constitutional” problems and some urging Gov. Neil Abercrombie to veto the bill so they can “fix” it.

A veto that resulted in any portion of the frozen pay being restored would blow to smithereens Abercrombie’s credibility with the public on his pitch for shared sacrifice.

Equally problematic would be a legal ruling restoring the pay raises issued by state judges who would benefit, based on pleadings by legislators and administrators who would benefit.

The vast majority of the public isn’t going to buy any arguments about legal complications. They know right from wrong and they see it as simply wrong for top public officials to take pay raises for themselves in a crushing recession while demanding painful sacrifices from everybody else — pay cuts for unionized public workers and tax increases for citizens.

Any complications are the Legislature’s own fault. If there are problems with HB 575, it’s only because legislators waited too long to resolve them and ran out of time.

The awkward entanglements between the pay of legislators and that of administrators and judges were introduced by design when lawmakers crafted the 2006 constitutional amendment creating the state salary commission.

Pay raises for legislators not dead yet

May 3, 2011

Legislators are going into the final days of their session with the possibility still alive of giving themselves big pay raises as unionized public workers take 5 percent cuts and constituents are asked to sacrifice more of their income to higher taxes.

Both houses voted to extend for two more years a 5 percent pay cut legislators took in 2009 to quell public uproar over a 36 pay raise they’d accepted while other state employees were furloughed in one of the worse years of the recession.

However, a conference committee failed to resolve differences between the two versions of HB 575 and was dissolved.

Without floor action in both houses by Thurday to extend the 2009 cut and freeze, not only will the 5 percent cut be restored to legislators’ paychecks on July 1, but they’ll also receive frozen 3.5 percent raises from Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 12, 2011.

That’s a total raise of 12 percent from $46,272 to about $52,000 for lawmakers on the same day members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association start taking a 5 percent cut.

It would mean a cumulative salary increase of 43 percent for part-time legislators during two and a half years of crushing recession, when the state has been chasing billion-dollar deficits.

Ending the freeze would also restore additional 3.5 percent raises for legislators on Jan. 1, 2012, Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 while unionized state workers will likely still be subject to 5 percent cuts.

Failure to pass the extension would also end the 5 percent pay cuts and freezes imposed on state administrators and judges in 2009. The Abercrombie administration, which has preached a mantra of shared sacrifice, has been publicly silent on the matter while the Judiciary has  pressed for restoration of judges’ pay.

The six years of pay raises starting in 2009 were approved by a salary commission whose majority is appointed by the speaker of the House and president of the Senate.

Legislators have defended their big salary increases on the basis that they went 12 years without raises from 1993 to 2005. That was mostly during the Cayetano-era recession when state budgets were nearly as tight as they are now. When that recession started to ease, they received raises in 2005.

If lawmakers make a late move to extend the pay freeze, two possible scenarios have been floated.

One would be to cleanly extend the 2009 freeze until 2013, leaving salaries where they are now. The other is a sleight of hand that would move the base for the 5 percent cut to what officials were receiving on Jan. 1, 2011 instead of Jan. 1, 2009, resulting in lawmakers getting a net 7 percent raise on July 1.

Conniving to raise their own pay by any amount while demanding sacrifices from everybody else would likely enrage the public and seriously erode the moral authority of the Legislature’s budget and tax package to close the state’s $1.3 billion deficit.


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