Political Radar


July 15th, 2014

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz dinged U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in a Democratic primary debate Tuesday night for taking a 36 percent pay raise when she was state Senate president and the state was struggling through the recession.

"What do you have to say to the people of Hawaii regarding your choices?" Schatz asked.

Hanabusa said the pay raise was brought up during her 2010 and 2012 elections to Congress by "people like (national Republican strategist) Karl Rove and (former congressman) Charles Djou and the Republican Party. And I'm surprised that you raised it, because you were in the Legislature when we established that salary commission that set it. They set that. And you voted for it."

The 36 percent pay raise has been a tempting weapon for lawmakers of both political parties over the years, and Hanabusa -- perhaps more so than any other lawmaker -- has suffered over the issue.

Hanabusa pulled a campaign commercial during a special election for Congress in 2010 that was considered deceptive on the issue of legislative salaries.

But even Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican who was ready to skewer Democrats over the pay raise, had backed off when she realized the circumstances and urged smaller rollbacks.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 creating a salary commission to set pay for lawmakers, the governor and other executive branch officials, and judges because of the predictable caterwaul every time a pay raise for politicians is proposed. The raises automatically take effect unless blocked by the Legislature, and lawmakers can only reject the pay recommendations in their entirety to discourage political gamesmanship.

The 36 percent pay raises that took effect for lawmakers in January 2009 came after Lingle, state directors and judges all had gotten raises. But the timing of the raises for lawmakers was unfortunate, since the state was preparing to make budget cuts in response to the recession.

Rejecting the pay raises, as Hanabusa pointed out at the time, would likely have been unconstitutional. But she also argued that lawmakers deserved the raise, a comment that will likely make the pay raise a debate point for her opponents for the rest of her political career.

12 Responses to “36%”

  1. Manoa_Fisherman:

    Schatz was a big supporter of a 2005 law that gave a loophole to allow a few dentists to get their Hawaii license. They included Dr. John Stover and Dr. Lilly Geyer (nee Tsou) who were involved in the deaths of two patients and the injuring of many more. After local dentists told Schatz that it was a bad idea to create loopholes for dental licenses.

    "It's unconscionable to not allow a local kid who has finished dental school to take a test and practice in Hawaii," said Rep. Brian Schatz, D-Makiki-Tantalus. "The bottom line is that it's a free market and this is not like accountancy or law where it would differ from state to state. Teeth are teeth and if somebody passed the board in New England or Florida, I'm prepared to assume they're a qualified dentist." (Pacific Business News, May 22, 2005)

    Schatz has exhibited nothing in his political career consistently as he has in his bad decisions in 2005 and now he has hired a known political manipulator such as Andy Winer as his Chief of Staff. Poor decisions then, poor decisions now. It isn't going to change and make Schatz a better qualified candidate.

    Who cares about a pay raise when you don't listen to local folks about local issues. Schatz should tell the families and friends of those injured and who have died as a result of his licensing loophole why he is such a smart politician.

  2. Sayer:

    I didn't know that about Schatz...seems he has a tendency not to look very deeply into issues.

  3. Chicken Grease:

    Yes. Dinged.

    Many miss the forest for the trees here -- you want to win a contemporary election, then, get Winer. When was the last time you heard pile-oftician (who won or lost) say, "it's not about winning . . ." Right.

    Schatz has got a helluva lot more TV ads than Hana[not my brand of]USA and something like that translates positively for voters who go in undecided (Hawaii being the home of undecideds when it comes to primaries).

  4. itoboy:

    The distinction between them is that in her 2010 campaign Hanabusa tried to act like an angel by running a TV ad that she generously took a pay cut of 5% without disclosing that she actually received a 31% raise by giving back 5% of what originally was a 36% raise. This raise took effect in 2009. Schatz left his house seat in 2006, three years before the raise took effect, so he didn't actually get the raise; Hanabusa got the raise and pretended that she took a pay cut - SHIBAI! Don't take my word for it, read this article: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2010/Mar/31/op/hawaii3310321.html How quickly people forget . . . .

  5. innocent observer:

    what shatz fails to mention about the legislator's pay raises is that they did have have a pay raise over the past several years, while the government employees and officials did. Hanabusa nor the legislators' determined what their pay raise would be, it was determined by a salary commission who considered all the facts, one of which they did not get a raise for a number of years. Even with the 31% pay increase, the salaries of the legisltors of Hawaii are still behind of other states. So to say that they got a whopping 31% pay raise without looking behind the numbers is totally stupid. Again, shatz is taking things out of context. All he spouts are half-truths, sparked by his COS, winer, the master of dirty politics.

  6. OldPro:

    Nonsense! The Hanabusa Comment-Writing Squad is in high gear … canned paragraphs dropped in at the bottom of stories mentioning Schatz. If you're going to win this, Colleen, win it on your own merits, not by trashing an exceptional young man who has already been representing Hawaii with real distinction in Washington.

  7. itoboy:

    innocent observer: yes, the amount was determined by the salary commission. Hanabusa correctly pointed out that Schatz voted for the constitutional creation of the salary commission in 2006, which was later approved by the voters. The senate president (Hanabusa) and house speaker appoint a majority of the salary commission. Schatz did NOT get the raise because he left in 2006, three years before the actual raise. The problematic thing about Hanabusa is that she was SHIBAI about it. Hanabusa pushed for the 36% raise, saying "[l]egislators work very hard and deserve the raise.” After giving back 5% of the 36% raise for a net of a 31% raise, she runs a TV ad saying she "cut legislative salaries" without disclosing that she in fact got a 31% raise. Even David Shapiro called Hanabusa's ad in 2010 "boldly deceptive."

  8. nonpolitic:

    Itoboy, Schatz, as lieutenant governor, benefitted from three raises recommended by the same salary commission that proposed only one salary increase for the legislature during the same time period. So not only did he vote for the way his salary would be increased, he did benefit from it.

  9. itoboy:

    nonpolitic: When Schatz was elected LG in 2010, the salary had been set by the salary commission voted by both Schatz and Hanabusa. The difference is that Schatz did not have an opportunity to either support or oppose the actual raise, whereas Hanabusa went on record that a 36% was appropriate because "[legislators work very hard and deserve the raise." Another difference, perhaps more important as an indicator of character, is that Schatz did not pretend to cut legislative salaries, whereas Hanabusa ran a TV ad claiming she "cut legislative salaries" when she actually took a 31% raise. Get it? Did you read Shapiro's article? All officials who work in government "benefit" from whatever the salary commission determines, but Hanabusa was shibai about it.

  10. itoboy:

    nonpolitic and innocent observer: If you refuse or too lazy to read Shapiro's article from 2010, I'll make it easy and quote it:

    "It's too bad, because she [Hanabusa] was one of the few in a position to shame her colleagues into doing right by the public interest and at least postponing their outsized raises until the economy improved.

    Instead, she [Hanabusa] and other legislative leaders came up with a scheme to deflect public outrage by taking a token 5 percent pay cut after the 36 percent raise was safely in pocket. There was also consideration of deferring a 3.5 percent pay raise due July 1, but reductions were temporary and lawmakers will still hit $58,000 by 2014.

    These tiny short-term cuts after the big raise was banked are apparently the basis of Hanabusa's campaign claim that she 'cut legislative salaries.'"

  11. nonpolitic:

    Itoboy, first off, I don't take Mr. Shapiro's musings as the gospel truth.

    Second, let me ask you this question then, from a purely legal standpoint, how would you have instituted a salary cut on a salary increase that was approved two years prior to any thought of a salary cut occurred? Keep in mind now that the constitution prohibits treating those affected by the salary commission's recommendations differently. Mind you, as Mr. DePledge accurately states, even Ms. Lingle had to back off her criticisms once she found out what was really happening.

    Third, you are incorrect in assuming that "all officials who work in government "benefit" from whatever the salary commission determines." That is simply untrue.

  12. Chicken Grease:

    With Itoboy on this.

    Half pile-ofticians don't need their salaries and as a gesture of good faith should, what, just take the medical benefits and have the gov'ment keep the salary. THEN they can pay the "hard-working" but, non-lawyer legislators better.

    Greed bespeaks a lot; such as your intentions as a Senator. So, there.

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