AP NEWS

Hawaii state House passes tax and minimum wage legislation

March 5, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii House of Representatives approved bills affecting taxes in specific areas and raising the state’s minimum wage.

Bills passed Tuesday were designed to provide tax relief to help make Hawaii more affordable for working families, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The House approved measures to increase tax credits to help renters and to offset the impact of the state excise tax on food.

The legislation would expand a refundable earned income tax credit for working families and increase the state’s food/excise tax credit to $150 per person for families earning less than $30,000 per year.

State tax officials testified that providing a refundable earned income credit would cost the state about $41 million more per year, while increasing the food/excise tax credit would cost the state an extra $36 million.

The House also voted to approve a bill increasing the minimum wage from $10.10 per hour to $11 beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The legislation would continue to increase the minimum wage in a series of steps until it reaches $13 per hour in January 2024.

Democratic state Rep. Tina Wildberger described that minimum wage increase as “too little, too late” to provide the help that low-income working people need.

Republican Minority Whip Val Okimoto said the bill “does not do enough to protect Hawaii’s small businesses.”

“I fear our small-business owners will be forced to cut hours, cut positions or, as some of my constituents have indicated, to shutter the doors completely, collect unemployment and apply for public assistance benefits,” Okimoto said.