Editor’s Note: This is another installment in our occasional series, It’s Your Money, that looks more closely at public expenses that taxpayers may not realize they’re being asked to pay.

The dollar amount to help public employees at three Maui-area hospitals is not yet known, but the cost to taxpayers to hold a special legislative session was at least $10,000.

The figure is based on attendance records and daily expenses for neighbor island lawmakers who flew to Oahu for the occasion.

The Hawaii Legislature met for three days earlier this month, initially to amend a vetoed bill and ultimately to override the veto.

Each non-Oahu member was paid $175 each day they were counted present for a floor session.

If they did not show up, they did not get the daily pay. 

House Legislature before gaveling at the Capitol. 18 july 2016
Lawmakers interact before a special session is gaveled in on July 18. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In the 25-member Senate, neighbor island daily expenses totaled $3,325. In the 51-member House of Representatives, it totaled $6,825.

That adds up to $10,150.

If the neighbor island lawmakers stayed on Oahu for any additional days this month, they are required to file for the $175 day rate separately.

House Chief Clerk Brian Takeshita said his office had not received any filings as of Friday.

Meantime, Senate Chief Clerk Carol Taniguchi said neighbor island senators may also use their interim daily allocation for additional time spent on Oahu during the special session.

“Other than the $175 per session day for each non-Oahu member who attended any of the three days of session, no additional costs are anticipated,” she said in an email last week.

Sen Slom lone republican sits waiting for colleagues to arrive. 20 july 2016
GOP Sen. Sam Slom waits for his Democratic colleagues to join him in the Senate Chamber on July 20. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The cost of Senate air travel for the special session was covered by the travel allowance each neighbor island member receives during the Legislature’s interim — one travel day per week — “so no additional costs are expected to be incurred,” said Taniguchi.

Takeshita said that that was the case for House members as well.

Media inquiries to House and Senate leadership regarding the $10,150 price tag were not immediately returned Friday.

Settlement Nearing

Senate Bill 2077 calls for providing severance payments or pension benefits to unionized public employees at three hospitals in Maui County that are being privatized by Kaiser Permanente.

Cost estimates range from $25 million to $77 million as to the amount that will be needed to implement the law.

However, SB 2077 does not explain where the money will come from or whether the state pension system will lose its tax-exempt status, as Gov. David Ige warned.

Meanwhile, the Ige administration is said to be nearing a settlement agreement with the United Public Workers, which represents hundreds of the employees at the hospitals.

Should a deal be struck, it’s unclear how it will impact SB 2077.

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