With tourism at a standstill, governor says he’s preparing for $1.5B in cuts to state’s budget

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The governor says the shutdown of tourism is Hawaii will have a significant impact on the state’s budget — and could lead to up to $1.5 billion in cuts.

The entire operating budget for the state is about $8 billion.

Gov. David Ige made the comments at a news conference Wednesday, during which he was peppered with questions about his administration’s proposed pay cuts of up to 20% for state employees.

Ige would not confirm the reports, saying he was still in talks with unions.

But when asked whether he could impose the pay cuts unilaterally, he said he could.

“I do have the authority to enact many different actions in order to continue the operations of the state,” he said. He added that “all options” for balancing the budget are on the table.

Public sector unions have called the proposed cuts draconian and unacceptable.

Union leaders have also urged the governor to look to other funding sources first — something Ige says he’s doing. He said, for example, federal stimulus money for states and the rainy day funding cannot be used for salaries.

The remarks come as Hawaii increasingly seeks to look ahead to how it might reopen the economy — even as it continues to address the immediate health crisis that coronavirus presents.

On Wednesday, the state reported 13 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 530.

SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Pandemic

The low daily count was more encouraging evidence that strict restrictions are helping to stop the spread of the virus. But Ige stressed again Wednesday that any efforts to lift those restrictions would be based on science.

“All of your hard work and sacrifices are showing promise,” he said. “Please do not let your guard down. The worst thing we can do now is become complacent.”

So far, more than 20,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in Hawaii.

Here’s a look at the county-by-county breakdown of positive cases:

  • Oahu: 369
  • Maui County: 92 (including 2 on Molokai)
  • Big Island: 41
  • Kauai: 21
  • Unknown: 1
  • Diagnosed out of state: 6
  • State total: 530

To get a more detailed breakdown of each county, click here.

Of the reported cases of COVID-19, at least 359 have recovered and been released from isolation. Some 45 patients, meanwhile, have been hospitalized.

No new fatalities were reported Wednesday. The death toll from the virus in Hawaii stands at nine.

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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