Lawmaker seeks big boost to Hawaii's minimum wage

Lawmaker seeks big boost to Hawaii's minimum wage
Updated: Dec. 27, 2016 at 6:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With renovations nearly complete, Brick Oven Pizza in Kalihi is set to open Jan. 5.

It's Corey Aguano's fifth restaurant. He employs close to 120 people and wants to add a dozen more to the payroll.

"Usually, it's the servers and the host-bussers who primarily get tipped. They are more minimum wage," he said. "You try and pay the kitchen more because they are not allowed to be tipped out."

A bill to be introduced this legislative session could give many of his workers -- and others who earn minimum wage -- a significant raise.

Under a plan drafted by state Sen. Josh Green, the minimum wage would rise to $15 an hour by 2019, from $8.50 now.

"A lot of individuals out there working, working, working and they can never afford rent," Green said. "If a couple were out there making minimum wage at $15 an hour or more, they could finally afford housing. They wouldn't need subsidies from the state."

Here's a detailed look at the proposal:

Year Wage
2016 $8.50
2017 $9.25
2018 (proposed) $12.50
2019 (proposed) $15.00
2020 (proposed) $19.00
2021 (proposed) $21.00
2022 (proposed) $22.00

Under Green's proposal, which is expected to encounter significant opposition from small business owners, pay would go up several dollars each year.

By 2022, the minimum wage would hit $22 an hour.

"That's what MIT, when they did the research, said would be necessary to actually live and thrive in Hawaii," Green said.

He added that wages could be less for tipped workers.

Single mom Shantel Figueroa makes $9 an hour working at a call center, and likes the idea of a significant increase to the minimum wage.

"That would be great.  Everybody would be a bit more stable," she said.

But Aguano says if such dramatic increases go into effect he'll have no choice but to increase prices and trim his staff.

"How do we survive? It's going to be hard for small businesses to survive," he said.

The proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour comes amid national efforts to do the same. Several cities and states have already adopted measures to increase the minimum wage.

Under current Hawaii law, the minimum wage is set to go up again in 2018 -- to $10.10 an hour.

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