(Editor's Note: Variations on this letter to the editor have appeared over the last few days in several Hawaii newspapers. Obviously this reflects the general line of the HGEA intervention into the Democrat Legislative Caucus meetings which are right now attempting to prepare Democrat legislators to survive the next session starting in January when the budget crisis will for the first time be dropped into their lap by the arbitrator's decision.)
As a chairperson of one of the Hawaii Government Employees Association's negotiating teams, it was upsetting to read and hear House Speaker Calvin Say's comments about contract negotiations.
Mr. Say said that the union leadership needs to consider what the members are saying and urged the unions to settle before September. Despite what he thinks, we have been working hard toward an agreement. It's easy for him to sit back, point from the sidelines, and make recommendations when he isn't involved in the negotiations.
His baseless comments show complete disregard for the efforts of the unions negotiating team members. We are taking our roles as representatives of our respective units and these negotiations very seriously. Since last June, we have been working to reach a settlement with the employers, and that's always been the desired outcome.
Mr. Say's comment to the unions, the governor and the county mayors, "Let us all work together and try to stop the bleeding" is pure shibai. I pose to him: What are he and the other legislative leaders doing to help our state fiscal situation?
The unions have all along said public employees are willing to "share in the pain" -- so why aren't our elected leaders doing their part to help the state's budget shortfall by exploring other options now, such as tapping special funds or early retirement legislation?
Now that the Council on Revenues lowered its revenue projections, that should be a clear signal to Mr. Say and his fellow lawmakers to take action. But instead, it seems the finger-pointing, hands-off attitude continues.
Actions speak louder than words, and to date, we haven't seen the legislators come forward and offer any viable solution to help close the budget gap and build a new sustainable economy for Hawaii.
Peter S. Oshiro
Chairman, HGEA Unit 13 negotiating team
LINKS TO ARTICLES DESCRBING CALVIN SAY'S COMMENTS:
August 23, 2009 News Read
SB: HGEA Arbitration to put Legislature in "difficult position"
Former Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano had argued -- and Lingle has taken a similar position -- that arbitration always rewarded the unions because the third party simply has to take a middle ground between two extreme positions. Cayetano successfully lobbied the Legislature to rescind binding arbitration in 2001, but Democrats brought it back two years later....
"It puts the Legislature in a very difficult position next session," Lingle said, "because if that arbitrator comes up with a settlement -- whether I agree to it or not -- I have to submit it to the Legislature and then they will be put in a position, in an election year, of having to raise taxes in order to pay for this binding arbitration settlement."
(It won't be difficult if Republicans don't field candidates.)
HA: State must plan now for lean government
State House Speaker Calvin Say said he is planning a caucus in the coming weeks to review fiscal priorities and develop a strategy for tackling the budget challenge they will confront in January.
Even before that discussion begins, Say could easily predict that bedrock programs such as public education, health and safety — often described as the "social safety net" — will have to top the list.
Say has not ruled out pursuing new revenues. Although he's staunchly opposed raising the general excise tax, he suggests pressing federal authorities to suspend requirements for states to provide matching funds in order to receive federal grants.
(With the arbitration schedule painting a bulls-eye on the Legislature, the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin are both deeply concerned about the Legislators' welfare. Next January will mark the first time that legislators are going to have to take responsibility for the State's economic crisis.)
BACKGROUND: Peter Oshiro Feb 2009 testimony against HB1106, 1718, 1719 http://www.hgea.org/pdf/Feb13_2009_testimonies/Peter_Oshiro_BU13.pdf