By Bill Buley

February 2, 2019

The fight to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage is just beginning, and Kauai’s mayor offered his input on Thursday.

The House Committee on Labor &Public Employment passed HB1191 HD1 to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage. The bill would increase the state minimum wage on a gradual basis beginning on Jan. 1, 2020 through 2024, with smaller wage increases for employees receiving employer-sponsored health insurance.

“The bill balances the real need of lower-wage workers to keep up with Hawaii’s high cost of living and small businesses’ ability to continue doing business amidst the significant burdens imposed on them by the state,” said Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, Chair of the Committee on Labor &Public Employment.

The minimum rose to $8.50 in 2016, $9.25 in 2017, and in 2018 it rose to $10.10, where it remains.

Under HB1191 HD1, the minimum wage for employees not receiving employer-sponsored health insurance will gradually increase until it reaches $15 in 2024, and $12.50 in 2024 for employees who are receiving employer-sponsored health insurance.

In his testimony, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said that coming from the private sector managing Big Save and Menehune Food Marts, he understands how hard it is to operate a business in Hawaii.

“Government needs to find ways to lower costs of doing business in our state,” he said. “Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger conversation and not one that’s matured yet here on Kauai.”

The mayor said he would need the opportunity to listen to community members, which includes the small business sector and mom-and-pop shops.

“This is, however, a state issue and discussion has begun in the state Legislature,” he said.

The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii raised concerns with four proposals to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage in hearings at the State Capitol Thursday.

The Chamber asked lawmakers to consider the impact these bills would have on local businesses’ ability to continue to create jobs, survive in a high cost of living state and pay for benefits currently offered to employees.

“The passage of these bills would seriously harm local businesses, the state economy, job creation and, potentially, the very employees it is trying to help,” according to the chamber.

Hawaii is the only state that mandates employers pay for health insurance for all employees who work 20 or more hours per week.

This bill will next advance to the House Committee on Finance.

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