Progressives Should be Embarrassed to Support HB2510

Progressives Should be Embarrassed to Support HB2510

NOTE: The legislators named herein are broadly considered “progressive.” There are others who voted “yes” who are members of either the Progressive or Working Families Caucuses but are not generally considered progressives so I didn’t feel the need to include them here.

Today, the Hawaii House of Representatives voted on nearly 30 pages of bills to move forward. It was the First Lateral Filing Deadline.

The one I and many of my colleagues were interested in was HB2510. The bill, “Relating to Income,” included an embarrassing and pathetic attempt to raise Hawaii’s minimum wage. Specifically, it raises the minimum wage to $18 by 2030. Yes, you read that right.

The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) conducts an annual “Self-Sufficiency Standard” study every year and submits a report on its findings to the legislature. DBEDT’s report for the 2020 calendar year pegged the “Self-Sufficiency Standard” at $17.21 for an individual and $19.66 for a family of four. So a bill for $18 doesn’t seem unreasonable, except that the bill in question gets there at the end of the decade. Thereby disappearing through inflation nearly all the gains the increase would have otherwise made.

The minimum wage provisions don’t go nearly far enough fast enough to provide the substantial wage increase minimum wage earners need today. With such a painfully slow move to $18 an hour, accounting for an average inflation rate, $18 in 2030 is the equivalent of just $15 in today’s dollars. This minimum wage proposal doesn’t get by the end of the decade where we needed to be two years ago.

It should be noted HB2510 does include some good stuff with respect to tax reform for working families. But all the tax proposals contained in HB2510 have stand-alone vehicle bills moving separately through the legislature.

HB2510 is not needed. At all.

A Sub-Minimum Wage for Kupuna and Women

Then there’s the dramatic, increase in the tip credit. At the moment, for all intents and purposes, the tip credit doesn’t exist except for high-end restaurant servers. HB2510 proposes to raise the tip credit to $2.75 by 2030.

In 2021, Hawaii did away (finally) with the sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities. A huge victory to be sure, but it seems our elected leaders think a sub-minimum wage is otherwise ok. And aside from the economic segregation of the tipped sub-minimum wage, it also has a history rooted in slavery, racism, and misogyny. You can check it out for yourself (here, here, and here).

While there is federal legislation pending to eliminate the tipped sub-minimum wage, Hawaii Democrats are seeking to expand it. They should be embarrassed.

So-Called “Progressives” Betray Their True Natures

In the last two years, two legislative caucuses have been created to focus on “progressive” and “working families” issues.

The “Progressive Caucus” was created and is Co-Chaired by Representative Matt LoPresti, who today voted “yes” on HB2510. So as I’m not faulted for misrepresenting his position, here is a link to his floor speech today in support of the bill. The previous speaker whose comments he asked to be “entered as his own” are those of Representative Jeanne Kapela, who is the founder and Chair of the “Working Families Caucus.” Rep. Kapela voted “no” on the bill.

The other “progressive” who voted “yes” on the bill is Representative Tina Wildberger. Her floor speech in support focuses on how great she is as a “business owner who pays her employees $15 an hour.” Not a living wage. It should be noted that Rep. Wildberger is also a big fan of the tipped sub-minimum wage being dramatically expanded.

Representatives LoPresti and Wildberger are members of both the Progressive Caucus and the Working Families Caucus. Though, I’m honestly sure either can really be considered progressive. I certainly don’t consider them as such.

Sure, there may be lots of different ideas about what a “progressive” is and I’ve written previously on what my definition is. And just so we’re clear, there was no bill introduced this year that gets Hawaii to a “living wage,” though some get much closer than others. HB2510 takes eight years to get to $18 which, as I said above, isn’t the living wage now (in case anyone is inclined to call me a hypocrite).

Sometimes half-measures are better than nothing. In this case, however, HB2510 arguably takes us even further away from achieving a living wage. Hawaii’s working families have been struggling for years. Even more so over the last couple. We need bold progressives who are willing to stand on principle to challenge the status quo business and political establishment.

Gary Hooser, with whom I don’t always agree, called the floor vote on HB2510 a “litmus test”. I think he’s right.

People across the islands who consider themselves “progressive” should take serious pause before choosing to support either of these two legislators in this year’s elections. Their continued anemic and soft support for much-needed economic reforms to uplift working families needs to improve considerably, or they need to leave (or be removed) from their legislative seats.

Send Some Love

Please send big mahalos to those who DID vote “no”:

Representative Jeanne Kapela
Representative Roy Takumi
Representative Sonny Ganaden
Representative Amy Perruso

(Others voted “no”, but they’re opposed to a minimum wage increase.)

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