HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) - One of the future plans Governor Abercrombie outlined in his State of the State address this morning is a proposal to increase minimum wage. It's been six years since Hawai'i raised its minimum wage, and in that time at least three bills designed to increase it have failed.
"Minimum wage earners provide immediate infusion of dollars into the economy. Everyone is worthy of their labor. Industry and corporations do not lack for support in these halls. Neither should those who work the hardest for the least return," said Governor Abercrombie during this morning's State of the State address. His proposal to raise minimum wage was met with applause—a warm reception that extended outside the Capitol building as news of the plan spread.
"How nice. That's nice to hear," said Josephine Basilio. The 70-year-old widow is looking for a part-time job to help pay her mounting bills. "The minimum wage is very low."
At $7.25 per hour, Hawaii's wage is the same as the federal rate, but it's barely enough to get by, according to most folks we spoke to.
"You might have to work another job to make ends meet, but that's what everybody does here in Hawaii—gotta work two, three jobs to survive," said Galu Aga. "You're living in paradise, but can't enjoy it."
The Governor has proposed a $1.50 increase to $8.75 an hour. Residents tell us that'll make a difference, but it's still not enough.
"$10 probably would be more the idealistic amount for Hawaii at least, because everything is much more expensive down here," said Czarina Salas, who says she struggles to cover all her expenses. "It would be good to have a job that can actually cover that and you know, of course, to have extra to save—but right now, that's not happening," Salas said before adding – "It's basically paycheck to paycheck."
The cost of living in Hawai'i is the most expensive in the country. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person would need to make $31.68 an hour just to afford the average two bedroom apartment here. Housing is considered affordable if rent and utilities cost less than 30% of a person's income. If you're making minimum wage here in Hawai'i that means working 175 hours – physically impossible since there are only 168 hours in a week.
The disparity between the minimum wage and a fair "living wage" isn't unique to Hawai'i. Making matters worse is inflation. According to the State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, our current rate is worth 84 cents less than when it was set six years ago.
"When it was at $5.15 it took years until they moved it to $7.25 so I guess they're moving in the right direction," said Clayton Shelden. "But everywhere, the businesses are hurting and so are the people—they're hurting. So I don't know what is enough."
If Governor Abercrombie's $1.50 increase to the minimum wage is approved by the state legislature, the new $8.75 rate is scheduled to go into effect in January of 2014.