Judge blocks Hawaii furlough plans

Chris Rizo Jul. 8, 2009, 7:16am

Linda Lingle (R)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Legal Newsline)-A state judge has blocked Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle's plans to order furloughs for state workers as part of an effort to help the Aloha State make ends meet amid a state budget crisis.

Earlier this week, Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that the governor cannot order furloughs since they would change the wages of state workers, who are protected by collective bargaining agreements granted by the state constitution.

The judge granted a request by the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the United Public Workers for a temporary restraining order and the Hawaii Government Employees Association's request for a preliminary injunction against the furloughs.

The two-term Republican governor had ordered state workers to take three furlough days a month for two years beginning this month. She said the move was aimed at helping to erase a state revenue deficit she estimates to be $729 million through June 2011.

For his part, Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett said the governor has the authority to make personnel changes that may be necessary in cases of emergency, such as a budget crisis.

"The facts are undisputed. We are facing, in this nation and this state, a global economic crisis unknown since the Great Depression," Bennett said. "In Hawaii, we have an unprecedented multibillion dollar revenue shortfall."

Lingle had warned of as many as 2,500 state worker layoffs if the furloughs were blocked by the courts.

"We will be working on two tracks throughout the weekend to close the budget shortfall. We will continue to negotiate labor contracts to achieve the savings we need to secure a balanced budget, as required by our constitution," the governor said in a statement. "We also will be continuing to identify additional savings from all state departments."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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