Here’s the transcript of Gov. Lingle’s media Q@A from this weekend:
Governor Lingle spoke to reporters on Saturday following an event she attended at Kapiolani Park. The following is the transcript of her responses to their questions regarding union negotiations and vetoes.
Media Q&A Transcript
July 11, 2009
Question: So, Governor, Monday is a big day with the unions?
Governor: It’s important to be clear on what is going to take place. Monday is a meeting that we asked the unions to come to – UPW and HGEA – the purpose of Monday is to discuss the furlough plan that the state has developed. After the judge ruled that we had to negotiate, we wrote to those unions and asked them, “Please come. The judge said we have to negotiate. The judge ruled. We’re likely to appeal that ruling, but in the meantime, let’s discuss furloughs so we have a plan in place.”
I continue to believe that furloughs are the right way to go. I’ve tried to avoid laying off our employees. Each month that goes by, our deficit gets more and more difficult to fill because we have fewer months to be able to have savings. So on Monday, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss furloughs.
I think the mayors have muddied up the issue a little bit in talking about negotiating contracts. Really the mayors aren’t a part of Monday. The purpose of the meetings is to negotiate furloughs. It’s only the state that has the furlough plan. If the mayors want to come and sit and listen to the discussion, they’re welcome. The other unions are welcome. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the state’s furlough plan. We also told the unions that if they wanted to use the meeting as a time to pass across an on the record proposal on the overall contract that we would be happy to receive it at that time.
Question: What was your reaction when the mayors came in when the DOE and UH presented their proposal on Wednesday?
Governor: There is no proposal. They said they were just repeating what the unions had told them. There really is no proposal – there can’t be because you need to have the governor and one of the mayors in order to make a proposal. You need to have the university president, the head of the board of regents and governor to make a proposal.
The reason that the university professors still don’t have a proposal is that the university president and the board of regents have never come to me and said, “Here’s what we want to put across, do we have your support?” They’ve never come forth with a plan.
The DOE and BOE have developed a plan, they asked me if it would get my vote. And I signed off on it a week ago on Monday. So now HSTA has a formal proposal that the teachers at the Department of Education have also signed off on. It’s only the university professors now that don’t have a formal proposal. That’s simply because the university hasn’t come forward with a proposal yet.
Question: Do you have a list for the unions?
Governor: We are working on a list now. Again, we want to make certain that it’s – by list, you mean? I’m sorry, maybe you should clarify your question.
Question: People who are going to be laid off?
Governor: We are working on developing a list of people we would have to lay off if we are not able to reach some agreement on our furlough plan or on the labor contracts. It is my hope – and it has always been my desire – to implement a furlough plan because I think it would have the least impact on the services and the employees themselves. Hopefully, we will be able to get into that negotiation on Monday about the furlough plan. I want to sit down with the unions, and if they have a better idea of how to implement the furlough plan, we’re happy to talk about that.
Question: Governor, did you send out the letters to start the layoff process last week?
Governor: No. The letter first has to go to the unions before it goes to the individual employees and that’s the letter we are working on now. We thought it made a lot more sense to see if Monday we get some good progress on our furlough plan. We don’t want to unnecessarily upset people but we want to be realistic at the same time. We’ll wait and see what happens on Monday. Hopefully we’ll have some good discussion about that furlough plan.
Question: The mayors are saying they are part of the mix because you have four votes and each of them have a vote to make up four.
Governor: It’s because furloughs are not part of the contract negotiation. As you know, we had a furlough plan. When the unions went to court and said “You can’t do that on your own, you need to negotiate.” The state is the only one with a furlough plan. The mayors are not part of that discussion because they are not recommending any furloughs of their employees. That’s why they are not part of this discussion.
Question: Do you feel overshadowed by the mayors?
Governor: No. I think the process is one that is very cumbersome. It’s not in the interest of the taxpayers. When I was a mayor, it was a difficult process to be on that side. Clearly the mayors and the counties should be negotiating separately. Their situation is different, their revenue sources are very different, the impacts are very different and the process just doesn’t work well for taxpayers.
Question: Do you think Mayor Hannemann is taking advantage of this situation because he is considering running for governor?
Governor: I would just say that I think the mayors have muddied the waters and made the negotiations more difficult for the state than they need to be. Hopefully we’ll get things back on track. I hope everyone understands what the purpose of Monday’s meeting is. Mayor Hannemann made it seem as if Monday was a big negotiating day; but in fact, Monday is happening because a formal letter that my team wrote to the unions – UPW and HGEA – and asked them to meet with us to discuss our furlough plan.
Question: unintelligible … about vetoes.
Governor: We’ve been trying to issue them (vetoes) in groups. The group that was issued yesterday was because they have a financial impact. They may be good ideas; but we wanted people to realize it wasn’t just commenting on the idea itself but the fact that we simply don’t have the money to pay for it right now.
I’m simply reacting the same way citizens across the state are, and that is to say that you can’t spend or start new programs when you don’t have any money.
An important point here – people have been asking how this happened. They say, “What happened to all the money?”
Well, we operate on projected revenues. So the money we’re talking about, the $2.8 billion wasn’t money we ever had, it was projected to be collected over the next two years and now the projection has changed. So it’s not as if the Legislature and I went out and spent money we had sitting in the bank. Our budget is based on projections for the next two years. When those projections get cut back, we have to cut back our expenses.
That’s why these negotiations with the unions – it’s not to go back and take money from them in the past; but going forward because the projection was downgraded and we simply don’t have the money to pay what they are earning now.
Question: Governor, you will be at that (Monday’s) meeting?
Governor: Marie (Laderta) will definitely be at that meeting.
Question: But you’re not?
Governor: I’m not planning to be here.
Question: As far as the arbitration with HGEA, I understand they have issues about selecting the person?
Governor: I think the mayors – again, because of a lack of experience – don’t understand the purpose of arbitration. We’ve put a name forward, a very good name, a very experienced person. They wrote back and said, “we don’t think that person would be a good negotiator.”
This is not to appoint a good negotiator. It’s to appoint a member of an arbitration panel to represent the taxpayers. The union gets one member, the taxpayers get one member and then they choose a third member. I think the mayors just don’t understand the purpose because they wrote back and said, “We don’t like that person as a negotiator.” They put another name forward who is an attorney at a local law firm who doesn’t know anything about our finances or anything abut state government and that is not a person you’d want on an arbitration panel. I think they just need to get a little more up to speed on what all the processes are because we really need to get going.
Question: How do you break that stalemate? Come up with another name?
Governor: This is the second name we’ve come up with, not the first. Again, they came up with another name that we didn’t feel was appropriate because, again, the people they’re coming up with don’t know anything about our current situation and that’s what you need on the arbitration panel.
You need someone who knows the facts and the background of our finances so they can pose questions to the other side during the arbitration period. We want the strongest person we can with the most knowledge of our government’s current financial situation. We suggested our Budget Director Georgina Kawamura would be the right person and the mayors said they don’t want her.
So again, there’s no one who knows the state situation any better. She’s also been a county budget director on Maui during my time as mayor for eight years. She knows the county and state. She’s the logical person to have on this panel. She represented us on previous arbitration panels. We thought it was a really good name to go forward. They want someone else who I’ve never heard of. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not in the people’s interest. We really need to go forward.
Question: What is the deadline?
Governor: There’s a deadline for a last best offer in August. The arbitrations start in September.
Question: If furloughs don’t go through, you said you would take layoffs. Former Governor Cayetano said he wanted to layoff 1,400 and he couldn’t do it – only 150. Do you think you can do it?
Governor: Governor Cayetano is correct. It’s a very cumbersome, difficult process that favors the unions much more so than it favors the taxpayers and they’ve made it difficult for us to have any kind of labor savings or layoffs.
I think he really hit the nail on the head with his comments on how difficult it is. That’s part of the reason why I feel the furloughs are the better way to go because it’s savings you can realize right away. The fact that the layoff procedure is so difficult means you have to layoff very large numbers of people to get the savings you need. That’s why I continue to believe furloughs are the best approach.
Question: Anything to come out of Monday?
Governor: We’re hoping we can get agreement from UPW and HGEA on the furlough plan. That’s what we’re going to discuss.
Question: So, the mayors, when they talk about their meeting, is that different?
Governor: I don’t know what they’re talking about. They need to explain that to the public. The only meeting I know about is one we requested on Monday from a letter we sent to UPW and HGEA.
Question: Have you received a letter from them formally?
Governor: Yes. They are going to be there on Monday. We’ve said it’s for the furlough plan, but if they want to make an offer for the overall contract on the record, we will be there to receive that.
Chief of Media Relations
Office of the Governor
Executive Chambers-State Capitol