The teachers union’s labor complaint against the state took a strange turn at Wednesday’s hearing before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.

State budget director Kalbert Young was on the stand, presumably to establish what the state’s finances were like when contract negotiations between the state and Hawaii State Teachers Association soured back in June. Gov. Neil Abercrombie ultimately imposed the new contract — and its 5 percent pay cut — on teachers without their approval and the union is challenging that before the labor board.

But many of HSTA attorney Herb Takahashi’s questions instead took aim at the $1.3 billion bond sale that state officials announced earlier this month — well after the contract was implemented.

The sale is considered a boon for the administration and has been at the center of political wrangling between Abercrombie, a Democrat, and former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate.

And now the hot topic has spilled over into the labor board room. Takahashi spent more than three hours asking Young questions about the bond sale and the state’s bond credit rating.

He dodged questions from the state’s attorney about why he was pushing the issue, and even Labor Relations Board Chairman Jim Nicholson couldn’t get a straight answer from him.

But Deputy Attorney General Jim Halvorson said after the hearing that the union is likely trying to prove that the state’s fiscal outlook is better than it was projected to be during negotiations earlier this year.

“I think he’s trying to prove that the Legislature put an unreasonable restraint on the budget and therefore negotiations,” Halvorson said.

What does that mean in a labor complaint case that purports to be about constitutional bargaining rights?

“It means that you’re butting up against each other — the Legislature’s constitutional right to set the budget, and the union’s constitutional right to negotiate,” Halvorson said. “And which one of those things do you think is going to win?”

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