Supporters, critics of $15 minimum wage make last-minute appeals to lawmakers

Updated: Apr. 25, 2019 at 10:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The deadline to raise Hawaii’s minimum wage is getting closer, and both sides of the debate have strong opinions on the issue.

"I didn’t need to be on drugs or alcohol to become homeless,” said Lina Burgess, who supports the hike.

“That’s the other thing they need to realize, it’s hard working people like me, that has two jobs, they can’t even spend time with their kids, that has to do this just to make it.”

Burgess says she was homeless while working simultaneous full-time jobs at Subway and Lowe’s for almost a year.

She now has a roof over her head but still lives paycheck to paycheck.

She said her husband passed away last year and she is now a single mother of two but can hardly see her children because she is constantly working. So, she says they stay with family.

“My morning starts at 5. I wake up, get ready, shoot it down to Subway. I start at 6 and I work from 6 to 1 every day. Then right after my day at Subway, I go to Lowe’s from 2 to 11, and that’s like every day,” Burgess said.

Hawaii’s current minimum wage is $10.10 an hour.

There are proposals to raise it to $15 an hour.

Burgess says that will help her, and many others out there, tremendously.

Both Hawaii House and Senate lawmakers say they want to raise the minimum wage, they just have come to an agreement on how to do so.

One proposal is to raise it to $12 an hour in 2020, then $15 an hour in 2023.

To help ease the burden on small businesses, it also includes a tax credit of up to $50,000.

Highway Inn owner Monica Toguchi Ryan says if the bill passes, it will ultimately impact the consumers.

“When costs rise, somehow we have to pass it on to the consumer or we’re going to be in the red because our profit margins are typically very thin in these industries,” said Toguchi Ryan.

Toguchi Ryan anticipates prices at restaurants will go up and some small businesses will eventually have to close.

“The whole thing for businesses is sustainability and for us that means staying profitable. If you’re not profitable, you can’t keep your doors open,” she said.

House and Senate lawmakers will re-convene Thursday in Conference Room 423 at 10 a.m. They could decide then or push it until the deadline on Friday.

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