Maui Council endorses Johnson’s proposal to allow counties to set own minimum wage
Councilmember Gabe Johnson announced Tuesday that the council endorsed his proposal for state legislation to empower counties in Hawaiʻi to set minimum wages that are higher than the state and federal minimum wage.
Resolutions 22-198 and 22-203 authorize inclusion of the proposed state legislation in the 2023 legislative packages for the Hawaiʻi State Association of Counties and the Maui County Council, respectively.
The HSAC package requires agreement of all four county councils prior to the start of the legislation session on Jan. 18, 2023.
“This proposed state legislation is about home rule and acknowledging that counties are best suited to respond to the economic conditions in their own communities by setting a minimum wage that meets the needs of working people and local businesses,” Johnson said in a press release. Johnson, who holds the seat for the Lānaʻi residency area pointed o to data from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism saying, “the self-sufficient wage for a single adult varies between counties by more than 30% annually.”
Johnson said he worked with the Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee—which recommended adoption of the resolutions—to clarify that his proposal is for enabling legislation to empower the counties, without taking a specific position on the merits of increasing the minimum wage.
Johnson noted that Under Act 114 (2022), the state minimum wage on Oct. 1 will increase from $10.10 to $12 per hour—which is not sufficient for Maui County, according to testimony provided to the council today.
“County government is the closest level of government to the people, and I understand the concerns of small, local businesses regarding the raising of the minimum wage,” Johnson said. “Let me be clear: This bill alone would not raise the minimum wage, but it will allow for debate in Maui County rather than at the State Capitol in Honolulu.”
Johnson noted the proposal isn’t novel. Among the municipalities that have exercised authority under their state’s laws to enact minimum-wage ordinances are Cook County, Illinois, and the cities of San Jose and West Hollywood, California.
“Many states across the nation allow municipalities to set local minimum wages,” Johnson said. “These states and their cities and counties have been successful in stimulating the local economy and providing more livable wages for low-income earners.”
Proposals in the Maui County Council and HSAC legislative packages are introduced in both the state Senate and the state House of Representatives. The bills are then referred to various House and Senate committees, with the council chair typically submitting testimony in support of bills in both packages.
“I look forward to seeing this legislation through the state legislature,” Johnson said in the release. “I then will look forward to a robust and genuine discussion with local workers and businesses during the next council term about how we as Maui County can move forward in a way that improves our economy and quality of life.”