Hawaii's legislators will soon consider whether or not to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019 in an effort that is worrying small business owners but catching the attention of low-wage workers.
Under Democratic State Sen. Josh Green's new bill, the minimum wage would hit $12.50 in 2018 and $15 in 2019, and it would not stop there, according to Hawaii News Now. The wage would continue climbing by a couple dollars every year, until it hit $22 in 2022.
"That's what MIT, when they did the research, said would be necessary to actually live and thrive in Hawaii," Green said, according to Hawaii News Now.
Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in in the U.S., according to a report compiled by USA Today. In order to live comfortably in 2014, one needed to make at least $122,000, while the median housing rental fell just under $2,000 per month.
Despite this, the state's minimum wage is $8.50, the same as in Michigan, notes the National Conference of State Legislatures. That number is lower than the minimum wages in Alaska, California, Connecticut, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia, though Hawaii's wages are set to go up to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2017 and again to $10.10 at the start of 2018.
"A lot of individuals out there working, working, working and they can never afford rent," Green said, according to Hawaii News Now. "If a couple were out there making minimum wage at $15 an hour or more, they could finally afford housing. They wouldn't need subsidies from the state."
Not everyone is a fan of the proposed legislation, and some small business owners are wondering how they would find the additional funds to pay employees.
"How do we survive?" asked Corey Aguano, who owns Brick Oven Pizza in Kalhi, Hawaii. "It's going to be hard for small businesses to survive."
Aguano said that the salary increase would likely force him to raise his prices and let some of his staff go.
But others, like single mom Shantel Figueroa, who makes $9 an hour at a call center, said that it would be "great" if she could make enough money to support her family.
"Everybody would be a bit more stable," she said.
Green's bill is expected to be introduced in the 2017 legislative session.