State lawmakers advance minimum wage boost

By Nathan Serota, Digital Editor, Digital Editor/Videographer
Published On: Feb 28 2014 01:46:00 PM HST
Counting out money

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1. Minimum wage: Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10. Last year, Obama asked Congress to raise the rate to $9 by the end of 2015, but Congress has not taken that step.

HONOLULU -

Hawaii's minimum wage would rise by almost $3 in three years under a bill state lawmakers are advancing.

SB2609 aims to incrementally boost the state minimum wage by 95 cents each year until it reaches $10.10 an hour in 2017. The minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour for the past seven years.

Testimony from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations indicates that average weekly earning for most in Hawaii has increased by 16 percent, while minimum wage workers have seen no increase.

Representatives from the DLIR added that as of the beginning of 2014, 20 other states have higher minimum wage rates than Hawaii. Washington state touts the highest rate with $9.32 per hour.

A full-time minimum wage worker in Hawaii earns just over $15,000 a year.

The original bill also called for two other items: a repeal of the tip credit that lets employers count part of a worker's tips against wages they have to pay and an attempt to tie future minimum wage increases to the cost of living.

However, according to the Associated Press, the current bill won't repeal the tip credit and will not tie future minimum wage increases to the cost of living.

Opponents of the measure argued that tieing the increase in wages to a cost of living index, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), would cause difficulties for businesses attempting to create budgets in advance.

Supporters said that paying minimum wage workers more would result in a plethora of economic benefits as less workers would require welfare and Medicaid insurance coverage.

The bill was passed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Committee Friday. Every member voted for the measure, with amendments, except for the lone Senate Republican Sen. Sam Slom. 

The bill must now be voted on by the full Senate before it crosses over to the State House of Representatives.

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