Hooser: $13 in 2024 is Not Enough, Hawai‘i Deserves a Living Wage

January 29, 2020, 8:52 AM HST · Updated January 30, 11:39 AM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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Photo by Wendy Osher.

A bill that seeks to incrementally raise the minimum wage in Hawaiʻi from the current $10.10 to $13 in 2024 will be heard in committee this week, but at least one former lawmaker is rallying for “$15 or fight.”

“Thirteen dollars per hour in 2024 is not a ‘good first step’ and the ‘other elements of the package’ (tax credits and housing initiatives) do not replace the basic need to pay people fair wages for a fair day’s work,” said Gary Hooser, former State Senate Majority Leader representing Kauaʻi.

Hooser currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action, a charitable educational and advocacy organization, and Executive Director for the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative, a policy and political advocacy organization.

“‘A good first step’ is allowing legislators to publicly vote on what a clear and strong majority of them have said they publicly support, which is at least $15 per hour,” said Hooser in an email communication to supporters.

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“An even better first step would be passing a measure that reaches the $17 target and includes annual cost of living increases. That is the step Hawaiʻi’s working families need and the only step that will ensure they eventually achieve a true living wage,” he said.

The Legislature last incrementally raised the minimum wage in 2015 from $7.25 to $7.75; then to $8.50 in 2016, $9.25 in 2017, and $10.10 in 2018.  Hawaiʻi’s current $10.10 minimum wage is still higher than the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage.

Bills seeking increases to the minimum wage last session failed to pass, including a Senate bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 this year.  Advocates had sought support in an attempt to achieve income equality and address Hawaiʻi’s cost of living.

One of the factors that lawmakers considered during the last session was the added expense that Hawaiʻi employers have in complying with the state’s Prepaid Healthcare Act.  NFIB Hawaiʻi’s state director last year expressed concerns over potential impacts including: stalled hiring plans, overtime calculations and business expansion.

The House Committees on Finance and Labor & Public Employment will hold a hearing on HB2541 at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Jan. 30, 2020) at the State Capitol.

House Bill 2541 would make the state earned income tax credit “refundable and permanent.” The bill would increase and amend the refundable food/excise tax credit by basing the amount of the credit on a taxpayer’s Hawaiʻi earned income, rather than federal adjusted gross income.

Under the new bill, Hawaiʻi’s minimum wage would increase to $11 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2021; $12 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2022; $12.50 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2023; and $13 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2024.

Hooser said that the bill supports Earned Income Tax Credit, which he called “a good thing,” but said $13 an hour is “not nearly enough.”  “They linked a good thing and a bad thing together, and combined the Labor and Finance Committees together,” said Hooser. His hopes are that if testimony numbers are strong, “there is a chance that the bill could be amended upward.”

Companion legislation is Senate Bill 3102.

Another bill, SB2656, seeks to establish a minimum wage commission to recommend the annual rate of increase for the minimum wage, and has been referred to committee.

The public may submit testimony in one of the following ways:

  • Paper: 2 copies (including an original) to Room 324 in the State Capitol;
  • Fax: For testimony less than five pages in length, transmit to (808) 586-8469 (Oʻahu) or 1-800-535-3859 (for Neighbor Islander without a computer to submit testimony through the website); or
  • Web: For testimony less than 20MB in size, transmit from http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/submittestimony.aspx.

***Note: Testimony submitted will be placed on the legislative website.  This public posting of testimony on the website should be considered when including personal information in your testimony.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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