The Legislature Just Can't Help Itself When It Comes to the Maui Hospital
From Grassroot Institute, March 17, 2017
The Grassroot Institute has been a supporter of public-private partnerships in general -- and the Maui Hospital plan in particular -- since the beginning. Having done the research on employment issues under the old system, and after talking to residents desperate for better health care, we understand what's at stake.
So we've been nearly as frustrated as the people of Maui at the delays that have dogged the hospital transition. Especially those caused by wrangling over special benefits for union employees.
Last year, we spoke out against the special session and resulting law that added millions to the project's price tag. But while that act is being held up by a lawsuit (filed by the state Employees' Retirement System over concerns that the law jeopardizes the tax status of the state pension fund), the legislature is trying to find another way to get those benefits to the hospital employees.
A series of bills heard this week (HB76, HB233, and HB234) attempt to amend the law passed last summer by adding new severance options for the hospital employees. Unfortunately, they still raise many of the same problems. Their attempt to blur the line between public and private employees still threatens the tax-qualified status of the ERS and its members. And there's still a cost to the state. The State Budget Director estimates that paying severance benefits negotiated through collective bargaining supplemental agreements will put a $30 million dent in the general fund.
Yes, we need to support the workers as they transition to a private non-profit provider. But we should also take a longer view about what this may mean for future projects. The lawsuits, the legal issues, the endless union negotiations ... are we sending the wrong message about doing business with (and in) Hawaii? Are we convincing the next state partner that the costs are too high?
The people of Maui are no doubt wondering whether they're ever going to get their hospital or whether it will disappear into a black hole of union and government negotiation. This partnership is a great thing for Hawaii and shows great promise for improving healthcare throughout the state. Let's not cripple it any further.
E hana kakou (Let's work together!),
Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.
HB76: Text, Status
HB233: Text, Status
HB234: Text, Status