Opening day of 30th State Legislature brings big topics

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The 30th legislative session opened Wednesday and lawmakers say they’re ready to prepare Hawaii for what lies ahead. Many are preparing for a recession and a minimum wage increase.

At the top of his list, Senate President Ronald Kouchi says he’s worried about the economy and bracing for a possible recession. 

“When you watch the major financial network they say a recession is coming and so I appreciate Senator Dela Cruz and the philosophy he is taking to be fiscally conservative. To make sure we have the money before we spend the money,” said Senator Kouchi. 

Some senators are hoping the government can put money back into the economy as project bids get more competitive. 

“We need to circulate capital. We need to circulate money. So in preparation for that, you know what Senate President is talking about we are starting to line up projects that would come on-line when the recession hits so we can keep people working,” said Senate Majority Leader Kalani English. 

Another topic legislators will tackle this session is the proposal to increase the minimum wage.

“I do believe minimum wage appears to be on everyone’s agenda this session,” said Governor David Ige. “Hopefully we can arrive at a good policy that we can make sure balance the concerns that I’ve heard from small business as we can move toward a living wage.”

House Minority Leader Kurt Fevella says he’s concerned how the state will achieve increasing the minimum wage. 

“I believe instead of raising the minimum wage across the board, we should start with a pilot program starting with our government workers first,” said Representative Fevella. 

Heavy discussions loom ahead, but as House Speaker Scott Saiki adds the Legislature must reaffirm its policy-making role, listen to others, and be prepared to compromise. 

“And remember that what sets Hawaii apart from all other states and Washington, D.C. is that we govern as a family,” said Representative Saiki. 

Currently, the state minimum wage is $10.10. There are proposals to increase it to possibly $15. 

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