Governor, lawmakers support boost to minimum wage (but not to $15)

Governor, lawmakers announce legislative package aimed at easing Hawaii’s cost of living

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige and leaders from both chambers of the Legislature announced a deal Tuesday that will see an increase in the minimum wage, among other measures. But the group stopped short of pushing for a $15 minimum wage, as other states have done.

The agreement was announced a day before the opening of the 2020 legislative session.

Lawmakers say the deal is the first House/Senate package since 2004 with strong support from Ige.

“It’s about investing in our young people,” the governor said.

Under the agreement, Hawaii’s minimum wage would increase from $10.10 to $13 by 2024. That’s shy of the $15 minimum wage a number of states have pledged to move toward ― or have already hit.

But lawmakers say the boost will help families without hurting small businesses. And they say they’re coupling the minimum wage increase with $75 million in tax relief for working families.

“It will help our struggling working families,” said state Sen. Brian Taniguchi.

The agreement also includes initiatives to help encourage developers to build more affordable housing.

Roughly 37% of the state’s population is just above the poverty line, said Norm Baker, the chief operating officer of the Aloha United Way.

“One little minor financial crisis can drive them deeper into chaos,” Baker said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are continuing to stress education-related proposals, including universal preschool.

The state also intends to help build new preschools and green-light new school construction.

The House and Senate will introduce identical bills later this month and expect amendments based on feedback from the public hearings.

Common Cause Hawaii says it has concerns about the package of bills that have been pre-negotiated and agreed upon.

“We are concerned about the appearance of backroom dealings,” said Sandy Ma, Executive Director, Common Cause Hawaii.

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