Min­i­mum wage bills move in Se­nate but stall in House

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - By Tay­lor Pol­son tpol­son@starad­ver­tiser.com

A key state Se­nate com­mit­tee has passed a bill to in­crease the state min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour by 2019, but three other bills to in­cre­men­tally raise the state min­i­mum wage have been de­ferred in the House. Sen. Karl Rhoads said Se­nate Bill 107 was prompted by con­cern about Hawaii’s high cost of liv­ing.

“The guys on the bot­tom of the totem pole need the min­i­mum wage in­crease a lot just to sur­vive,” said Rhoads (D, Down­town-Nu­uanu-Lil­iha). “Will there be any de­crease in em­ploy­ment be­cause of this? The ev­i­dence at this point is if there’s any ef­fect, it’s very mi­nor. What I’m re­ally try­ing to do is pro­tect those guys at the low end of the eco­nomic scale.” Rhoads’ bill would in­crease the min­i­mum wage from $9.25 an hour to­day to $12.25 by Jan. 1, 2018, and to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.

SB 107 will also au­tho­rize the state Depart­ment of La­bor and In­dus­trial Re­la­tions to ad­just the min­i­mum wage after 2019 as the re­gional con­sumer price in­dex fluc­tu­ates.

Mon­ica Ryan, owner of the res­tau­rant High­way Inn, op­posed the bill. She said in writ­ten tes­ti­mony that if the pro­posed wage in­creases were rat­i­fied, one serv­ing of laulau at her res­tau­rant would cost a cus­tomer $15.42 by 2022. The cur­rent price of laulau at High­way Inn is $6.95, Ryan said. Cameron Sato, a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors of Amer­i­cans for Demo­cratic Ac­tion, sup­ported SB 107. He cited the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s liv­ing-wage cal­cu­la­tor, which in­di­cates a worker needs to earn at least $14.66 an hour to make ends meet in Honolulu and $13.74 an hour else­where in the state.

SB 107 was ap­proved Tues­day by the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Ju­di­ciary and La­bor, and now goes to the Se­nate Ways and Means Com­mit­tee for con­sid­er­a­tion. How­ever, sim­i­lar min­i­mum

wage pro­pos­als in the House ap­pear to be fail­ing. The House Com­mit­tee on La­bor and Pub­lic Em­ploy­ment on Tues­day con­sid­ered three min­i­mum wage bills — House Bills 442, 5 and 1433 — but de­ferred them all. Rep. Aaron Jo­han­son (D, Fort Shafter-Moanalua Gar­dens-Alia­manu), who serves as chair­man of the House La­bor Com­mit­tee, ex­plained that he wants to see how re­cent in­creases in the min­i­mum wage will af­fect the econ­omy be­fore boost­ing it fur­ther.

The Hawaii min­i­mum wage was in­creased 75 cents to $9.25 an hour Jan. 1. Rep. Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Wai­pio-Pearl Har­bor) sug­gested the state in­ves­ti­gate the model of the Seat­tle-Ta­coma In­ter­na­tional Air­port to see how a ma­jor wage in­crease might play out in Hawaii. Most work­ers at the air­port now earn above $15 an hour, ac­cord­ing to the Seat­tle Times.

Jo­han­son said the state can help work­ers in ways other than con­tin­u­ing to raise the min­i­mum wage, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing tax re­lief for low- and mid­dle-in­come in­di­vid­u­als.

“That broadly up­lifts those peo­ple who need it,” Jo­han­son said. “We passed a sick-leave bill which would also broadly up­lift the worker. I think leave pol­icy, whether it’s paid sick leave or an ex­ten­sion of fam­ily leave, has the abil­ity to broadly help work­ers, per­haps even more broadly than a min­i­mum wage in­crease.”

Sev­eral res­tau­rant man­agers sub­mit­ted tes­ti­mony re­gard­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties the House bills would im­pose on their busi­nesses through ris­ing la­bor costs.


Karl Rhoads: He said Se­nate Bill 107 was cre­ated to help those “on the bot­tom of the totem pole” ———


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