In a sharp break with political tradition, leaders from the state House and Senate joined Gov. David Ige at a news conference today to unveil a dramatic package of tax relief, housing plans and a preschool development program designed to provide cost-of-living relief to Hawaii’s low-income and working class residents.
The package of four bills will be introduced at the start of the Legislative session Wednesday, and will include a proposal to increase the state minimum wage in a series of steps to $13 an hour by 2024.
The package would also offer about $70 million per year in tax relief to less affluent households, including a refundable state earned income tax credit that lawmakers expect will provide some measure of tax relief to about 90,000 Hawaii taxpayers. Creating that refundable credit is a step that social services advocates have urged lawmakers to take for years.
The tax package would also increase the value of the tax credit for food purchases, which is designed to offset the impact of the state excise tax. That credit would be increased to $150 per person in the household. Currently, the credit ranges from $110 for the poorest households to $35 for families making $40,000 to $50,000 per year.
There are an estimated 20,000 3- and 4-year-old children who never attend preschool today, and the package that Ige and lawmakers announced with the support of community advocates seeks to develop enough low-cost or free preschool slots to place all of those children in preschool classrooms.
The package also proposes a new push to develop 17,000 affordable leasehold housing units on state lands in the next five years that would be aimed at people who make too little to buy fee simple homes, and too much to qualify for most subsidized housing.