As chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment, state Rep. Mark Nakashima has already been hard at work crafting legislation to raise the minimum wage.
So it’s no surprise that Nakashima, D-Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo, lists a 75-cent increase in the hourly wage over three years as one of his priorities for the 2014 legislative session. Nakashima said he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to review a proposal promised by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, but he said there will be minimum wage legislation heard in his committee this year.
Abercrombie, in his State of the State address Tuesday, said raising the minimum wage is one of his priorities for the year.
“A hard-working sector in our community has gone seven years without seeing their wages rise. Therefore, I will be proposing a bill to increase the minimum wage by $1.50 to at least $8.75 starting in January 2015,” promised Abercrombie, who faces re-election this fall. “Currently, 21 other states plus the District of Columbia have higher minimum wage rates than Hawaii while our minimum wage earners are confronted by much higher living costs.”
A former educator, Nakashima is also stressing legislation to make state funding more equitable for small rural schools by returning to a weighted student formula. More than five years ago, the formula for school funding was changed to a set amount per student. While each student is allocated the same amount, smaller schools are at a disadvantage hiring teachers and purchasing supplies because they don’t have economies of scale, he said.
“Per student, while they get equal funding, the funding isn’t equitable,” Nakashima said.
Another priority for Nakashima is infrastructure for supplying water, especially on the Big Island and Oahu. Older waterlines and infrastructure in Honolulu and Hilo are failing and need work, he said. More recent development in West Hawaii and other areas of the Big Island are demanding expansion of water systems.
While the delivery systems for water are county responsibilities through the departments of water supply on each island, water as a resource is actually the purview of the state, he said.
“There are so many people on catchment throughout Hawaii Island, he said. “A lot of people are trying to get county water.”
So many, in fact that local water departments are unable to accommodate them, he said.
Nakashima proposes a state surcharge on water, likely to be combined with state grants, to help the water systems get up to par.
“As we continue to tap into the aquifer, at some point the aquifer is going to be tapped out,” he said.
Another infrastructure priority is bridges, he said. First on the list are bridges needing to be repaired or replaced on the Hamakua Coast.
The Banyan Drive area is another priority. The land there is owned by the state, and hotels along the drive operate under long-term leases.
Nakashima would like to see improvements to the road and other infrastructure.
“It behooves the state to provide Banyan Drive with money for infrastructure,” he said. “Improving the appearance and making it a more welcoming area for residents and visitors is a key to rehabilitation of the area.”