Abercrombie aims to raise minimum wage

HONOLULU (AP) – Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75.

During the State of the State address Tuesday, the Democrat said he hopes the $1.50 increase will go into effect next year.

“If you take off the ideological blinders you’ll see that raising the minimum wage is an advantageous step in increasing retail activity and pumping dollars back into the economy,” he said in a news conference after the address.

The governor said Hawaii hasn’t increased its minimum wage in six years and there are 19 states with higher minimum wages than Hawaii. Also, the state’s wages haven’t kept up with the rising cost of living, he said.

House Speaker Joseph Souki agreed, saying that raising the rate by a dollar – to $8.25 an hour – wouldn’t be enough to cover the high cost of rent in Hawaii.

Any minimum wage proposal should consider the impact on small businesses, Senate President Donna Kim said. The last thing the Legislature wants to do is cause greater unemployment by increasing labor costs, she said.

“We have to find balance,” she said. “How much more can the businesses afford?”

The minimum wage proposal is going to require extensive analysis and input from the business community, House Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson said.