Showing posts with label council of state governments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label council of state governments. Show all posts

Friday, November 13, 2009

Everyone's talking about the weather, feds give Hawaii schools demerits, samurai subs spotted

A weather system spinning around the state is bringing high surf, heavy rain and even snow to the islands.

A flash-flood warning has been issued for windward and some north shore areas of Kauai and Oahu this morning.

A storm continues to push through the state. Heavy rain and thunderstorms will be lingering through today and flash flooding is possible. Drier conditions are due back next week.

Snow fell on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Thursday.

Young Brothers said yesterday that barge arrivals to Kahului Harbor on Maui have been disrupted by continuous large swells that made it unsafe to attempt to enter the port. The next port arrival has been postponed until today.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a telephone news conference yesterday, again scolded Hawai'i for its decision to furlough teachers for 17 school days and said the move could hinder the state's ability to garner competitive federal grant money.

Hawaii's intrepid "samurai sub" hunters will look this weekend for two Japanese World War II submarines that have eluded previous searches in a graveyard of military debris south of Oahu.

The Lingle administration announced yesterday that about 650 state workers will lose their jobs to help the state reduce labor costs and close a budget deficit, down from the 1,100 originally targeted for layoffs last summer.

Hundreds of state workers will start to be laid off in waves starting on Friday.

Six career police officers each with more than two decades in law enforcement are the finalists for Honolulu police chief, according to biographical information released yesterday.

Moanalua Middle School was scheduled today to became the first Hawaii school to inoculate children, faculty and staff for H1N1 influenza, or swine flu.

The value of building permits on the Big Island in the first eight months of 2009 is little over half of what it was for the same period last year.

The movie "The Men who Stare at Goats" doesn't treat Hawi resident Jim Channon very nicely.

The lifeless body of Daniel Bonanno was discovered in a white Ford Ranger pickup truck Monday morning, just one day after the 47-year-old Kapa‘a man, owner of a long criminal record, was released after years behind bars.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Wednesday morning edition

Hawaii drivers soon will be paying the highest taxes on gas in the country, about 62 cents a gallon.

Two weeks before the price of fuel is expected to jump by about a dime in extra taxes, the statewide average for a gallon of gasoline hit the $3 mark.

Gov. Linda Lingle told state workers yesterday to expect massive layoffs as early as July 1 if they don't accept furloughs. But the public worker unions went to Circuit Court to fight the threatened furloughs.

Three public-sector labor unions filed legal challenges yesterday against Gov. Linda Lingle's plans to furlough state workers, while the governor said she has instructed state department directors to draft layoff options as an alternative if furloughs are blocked in court.

Hawai'i's elementary and middle school students not only lag behind their national counterparts but are also outperformed by their peers in many Asian countries and parts of Europe, according to a new international grading index.

Taxes and a little confusion led the debate as the Maui County Council's Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday began the heated and tricky process of potentially raising property taxes for bed-and-breakfast and transient vacation rental owners.

A Kona woman who killed one woman and injured two men in a drunken driving collision in 2006 will be released from prison after serving only 18 months of a 10-year sentence in prison

The state Legislature chose not to enact the Department of Land and Natural Resources' proposed Recreational Renaissance plan, but department chairwoman Laura Thielen is working on a backup approach that may accomplish some of the same maintenance and improvement goals.

The public is invited to weigh in this week and next on the environmental impacts of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope.

Hawaii County's main office building is going high-tech.

Monday, February 9, 2009

National group to bring bad budget news

HONOLULU -- If misery loves company, Hawaii’s got plenty of both.

A new report by the National Conference of State Legislatures says the budget gap – the difference between what states have and what they need – has moved nationally from “sobering” to “distressing.”

NCSL Executive Director William Pound will bear the bad news personally to Hawaii on Thursday, when he’ll address the House Finance Committee.

Pound is expected to update the committee on current fiscal conditions, strategies being employed to meet budget shortfalls and whether states should expect much relief from the federal bailout, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is currently being negotiated in Congress.

Hawaii’s three-year budget shortfall is estimated at $1.8 billion, but even that intimidating figure could become more frightening. NCSL, in its interactive budget map, shows Hawaii’s FY 2009 budget gap at $353.3 million, or 5.8 percent of the state general fund.

Even though some states have taken corrective actions, the current FY 2009 gap still stands at $47.4 billion, on top of the $40.3 billion shortfall for the 2008 FY, according to NCSL, whose budget analysts are predicting it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

"These figures are absolutely alarming, both in their magnitude and in the painful decisions they present to state lawmakers," Corina Eckl, fiscal program director for NCSL, said in a statement. "The easy budget fixes are long gone, only hard and unpopular options remain.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lawmakers face PR nightmare on raises

HONOLULU – Of all the years to get a 36-percent raise.

Hawaii legislators face a PR nightmare this year: trying to justify their $12,808 salary increase while constituents right and left are losing their jobs. The increase, which went into effect Jan. 1, brings lawmakers’ base salaries to $48,708.

A second raise of 3.5 percent is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2010, unless the Legislature passes a bill to suspend it.

The raises were put into place by an independent Commission on Salaries that voters approved on the 2006 ballot. The commission also prescribed pay hikes for the governor and Cabinet, and state judges.

Being a legislator in Hawaii is not considered a full-time job – the legislative session lasts from mid-January to early May and was designed so that “citizen lawmakers,” rather than professional legislators, could bring their particular areas of interest and expertise to the Capitol.

Hawaii lawmakers are by no means the poorest or the best paid, according to a study by the Lexington, Ky-based, Council of State Governments. The council provides policy analysis and tracks national conditions and trends in state governments.

The study, “State Legislator Compensation: A Trend Analysis,” found that the average legislative salary in 2005 was $25,908, and hasn’t kept up with inflation.

Keon Chi, editor-in-chief of CSG’s annual Book of the States, wrote the 38 page report.

“Compensation levels have an impact on recruitment, retention and the work of the legislature,” said Chi in a statement. “If legislators are not paid adequately, then candidates are drawn from a smaller pool. High pay broadens that pool. You can’t expect to attract good candidates with pay that is lower when compared to other jobs and professions.”

But these are tough times, and Gov. Linda Lingle has asked the Legislature to freeze raises for her and her staff, as well as themselves. She says that could save more than $4 million.

But legislative leaders, including House Speaker Calvin Say, D-St. Louis Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, say the raises are long overdue and well deserved. They note that the executive branch and judges have received raises, but the Legislature has received only three raises in 15 years.

“Given those increases and the rates of pay provided to the Executive and Judicial branches, asking legislators to forgo their pay raise places an undue and inequitable burden on the Legislative branch,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “As we address these issues, all concerned have a duty to understand the true facts behind our deliberations, to work within the spirit and letter of our laws, and to avoid creating distracting political conflicts where none exist.”

Lingle’s proposed salary freeze would affect 208 employees, including the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet heads and deputies and justices of the Hawaii Supreme Court and all state court judges.

The administration employees are scheduled for salary hikes of 5 percent on July 1, 2009 and 3.5 percent on July 1, 2010. The justices and judges are scheduled for salary increases of 10 percent in 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2010.

Lingle’s bill, HB 1109, asks state leaders to “lead by example during fiscally challenging times” by deferring for two years the salary increases recommended by the Commission on Salaries for legislators, judges, and senior officials of the executive branch for the next two fiscal years.

Other related bills:

SB 479, filed by Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, by request, requires an across-the-board decrease of the salaries recommended by the commission on salaries for executive branch heads and their deputies, judges and justices, and legislators.

SB 363, by Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, Kahala, abolishes the Salary Commission, while SB 368, also by Slom, proposes constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to suspend the increase in legislative salaries as recommended by the Salary Commission.

HB 1816, by Rep. Della Belatti, D-Tantalus, Makiki, McCully, reduces by 5 percent the current salaries of executive, legislative, and judicial branch employees and freezes salaries of such employees for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. HB 1670, also by Belatti, requires the Commission on Salaries to hold public hearings and provide public notice of each hearing.

SB 221, by Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa, Lower Waipahu, requires the Commission on Salaries to conduct a public hearing on Oahu prior to submitting its recommendations to the Legislature. Democratic Sens. Robert Bunda, Mike Gabbard, and Dwight Takamine, as well as the Republican Sen. Slom, have cosigned on the bill.