By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
HONOLULU (AP) _ Hawaii lawmakers have passed the state’s first minimum wage increase since 2007, raising it from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour and phasing in the change over four years.
The measure was approved in the House and Senate on Tuesday after considerable debate on the potential impacts to families and small business.
“Raising the minimum wage I contend will have a direct, positive impact on Hawaii’s families,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, D-South and West Maui. “Hawaii’s women with children are disproportionately represented in low wage jobs, and they are the ones who will gain the most from an increase in the minimum wage.”
The cost of a bag of rice has nearly doubled in the time that has passed since the last minimum wage increase, Baker said.
The measure (SB 2609) is a compromise for lawmakers like Sen. Clayton Hee who wanted the wage to increase more quickly.
Even so, Hee says the bill goes a long way to address concerns of many women and homeless people earning minimum wage.
But owners of “mom and pop” shops could have a hard time hiring students and other unskilled workers that they normally take on and train, some lawmakers said.
“I’ve talked to business owners who haven’t paid themselves in seven months, because they’re barely surviving,” said Rep. Richard Fale, R-Waialua. “That’s the kind of struggling that’s going on in our private sector these days.”
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has indicated he will likely approve it. He applauded the Legislature’s work on the proposal during conference committee meetings.
Employers with tipped employees can get a credit for those workers who earn $7 more per hour than the minimum wage. The tip credit would rise gradually to 75 cents.