A half-dozen Hawaii labor leaders are urging House Speaker Scott Saiki to move quickly this week to schedule floor votes on stalled bills to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage and exempt unemployment payments from state income taxes.
Senate Bill 614 dealing with the state income tax on unemployment benefits and Senate Bill 676 to increase the state minimum wage to $12 an hour are both stuck in the House Labor and Tourism Committee, where Chairman Richard Onishi never scheduled them for a hearing.
In a letter to Saiki dated Monday, private industry labor leaders including ILWU President Donna Domingo and Unite Here Local 5 Financial Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill said that 20 other states increased their minimum wage this year.
“These are unprecedented times which necessitate bold steps to care for Hawaii’s working families and our most vulnerable,” the letter stated.
The letter was also signed by George Paris of the Hawaii Ironworkers Stabilization Fund; Joseph O’Donnell, business manager/financial-secretary/treasurer of Hawaii Iron Workers Local 625; Wayne K. S. Kaululaʻau, president/principal officer of Hawaiʻi Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996; and Pat Loo, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 480.
Saiki did not respond to a request for comment on the letter, but House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti said that small business in Hawaii are particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of increasing the minimum wage.
“This is not the right time right now, as our economy is just slowly recovering, to increase the minimum wage,” she said.
As for the measure to eliminate the state income tax on unemployment benefits, Au Belatti said Gov. David Ige’s administration calculates that would cost the state about $190 million in lost tax collections.
She also said that giving out that kind of a tax break would violate the conditions of the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which is providing more than $1.6 billion to help balance the state budget.
The ARPA law prohibits the states from using federal funds from the act to finance state tax breaks, she said.
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