A bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 moves forward to a full Senate vote while some in the business community oppose the proposed increase.

The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara said, this is not the right time to raise the minimum wage as small business owners continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic.

Menor-McNamara said, “What we’re saying is not this session, timing is not right, let’s focus on economic recovery, and not make it more challenging so that businesses can keep their doors open.”

Menor-McNamara said, local shops are still trying to bring back employees who had to be furloughed because of financial struggles related to COVID-19.

A survey done by the Chamber and research firm Omnitrak found 45% of more than 300 businesses reduced their workforce in 2020.

“They’re not making revenue or very little revenue,” Menor-McNamara said. “So how are they going to cover that cost. And even though if it’s going to be implemented next year, we don’t know, what next year will look like.”

Senate Bill 676 is short and to the point. It aims to raise the minimum wage by next July from $10.10 an hour to $12.

State Sen. Brian Taniguchi, who introduced the bill, is hopeful for a better financial state by 2022.

The bill passed the Senate’s Labor, Culture and the Arts and Ways and Means committees so far.

“People who have reservations because it’s not enough. And there’s of course, people who oppose it or have reservations, because it’s too much or it’s too early, or it’s not timely,” Taniguchi said. “We’re going to have those, and get it from both sides. And so, but I think, I’m pretty confident it’ll pass.”

Many who wrote testimony in support of the wage increase called for an amendment to raise the hourly minimum to $17 by 2026.

Taniguchi said, a raise to $12 by next year is a jumping off point.

He said, economic recovery is also giving people a livable wage.

Taniguchi said, “Not just assistance to your businesses but also assistance to your lowest-paid workers, though. And that, to me is just as important.”

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