Lawmakers didn’t pass a minimum wage hike, but are getting raises of their own
Originally published in Hawaii News Now, May 3, 2019
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers who couldn’t reach a deal to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage of $10.10 an hour are being criticized for accepting pay raises for themselves.
The raises, proposed by the state Salary Commission, automatically go into effect since House and Senate leaders did not reject them this session.
Right now, state senators and representatives, not including the Senate president and House speaker, make $62,604 a year for what is considered a part-time job.
The commission recommended a 10% bump for state lawmakers in 2021, followed by a 2.5% raise every year until 2024, putting their annual salary at $74,160.
The Senate president and House speaker, who receive higher pay, will end up with $83,052 in 2024.
Those who advocated for raising the minimum wage say they're appalled.
"You're here to serve the people. You're here to uplift the people. So if you're getting a pay raise and the people you serve continue to struggle, then you have to start asking some questions," said living wage advocate Marissa Buendicho.
The pay raises are all part of a package deal that includes salary increases for the governor, lieutenant governor, department heads, judges and justices.
Gov. David Ige now makes $158,700. He is getting a 4% raise this year and next year, then a 2.5% raise the next four years, putting his salary at $189,480 in 2024.
The raises for the executive and judicial branches go into effect this July.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti said, "The executives of these departments have been underpaid for years and there is a great need to increase their salaries to attract and retain talented and competent people."
The commission said higher pay will also encourage more people to run for the legislature.
“No, you get the same people and you just pay them more,” said former state Sen. Sam Slom.
Slom says public service shouldn't be about the pay.
He says politicians also need to consider the perks that come with the job.
“We get a per diem, we get an office allowance of multiple thousands of dollars, and we get so many different benefits that we’re far and above what the average working person gets in the state of Hawaii. It’s just not fair, it’s just not right,” Slom said.