HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii’s minimum wage will be increasing from $10.10 to $12 starting October 1, but for some lawmakers, that wage hike still falls short. 

Maui County Councilmember Gabe Johnson is getting the backing of the rest of the council to include a bill in the county’s legislative package for next year’s session with the intent to allow each county to set its own minimum wage. 

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“The Feds and states are working too slow, we have to be a bit more nimble,” Johnson said. “It’s asking for the state to recognize the counties and its home rule in that way that the counties would have a say, remember, it’s not going to say that we could go lower than minimum wage, it is what it has to be above the state and federal minimum wage.”

Although those representing retailers and local businesses, such as the Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki said this is not the right time for another possible increase. 

Yamaki said, “It’s great for the employees who now you know, can get whatever they decide upon it. But the question is, can the businesses afford it?”

She said business owners cannot afford another added expense to their operations.

Il Gelato Hawaii owner Dirk Koeppenkastrop said the initial hike to $12 will not make much of a difference for their operating budget, but the pinch is likely to be felt a few years from now when the minimum wage reaches $16 and $18. 

“The original intent of making Hawaii more affordable I think is great, we all want our employees to make a living which is good enough to live in Hawaii and be comfortable,” Koeppenkastrop said. “But the intention of the bill is going in the wrong direction because it will be increasing the prices of everything in Hawaii.”

By his own calculations, a scoop of gelato will be reaching $10 when the minimum wage is raised to $18 six years from now. 

Still, those pushing for better wages said this is just the start of their efforts. 

Johnson said, “I will write letters and lobby and speak with legislators and bring and speak with a business community. And I’m going to try to convince them that that’s part of how the legislative process works.”

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The state minimum wage is set to increase in two-year increments. The wage will hit $14 in 2024, $16 in 2026 and finally $18 in 2028.