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House aims to suspend raises for Hawaii legislators, governor, judges

The state House today tentatively suspended a 10% pay raise for all legislators that was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, pending another House floor vote on Thursday.

Instead, raises recommended by the state Salary Commission for the governor, legislators, judges and department heads would be deferred until January 2023, House Speaker Scott Saiki told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser following today’s House floor session.

With Hawaii saddled with the highest unemployment rate in the nation, “the timing is not the best right now for salary increases at these levels,” Saiki said. “We have a high number of commercial leases being cancelled. There’s still some work we have to do for our economic re-opening.”

Today’s voice vote amended Senate Bill 1350 and is scheduled to be voted on again Thursday on the House floor after 48 hours.

In 2019 — before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and while Hawaii enjoyed record tourism numbers — the state Salary Commission recommended legislative pay raises of 10% followed by pay raises of 2.5% in the subsequent three years.

Last year the Legislature passed a bill that deferred increasing their salaries to $68,868 from $62,604 during Hawaii’s COVID-19 economic crisis.

The 10% pay raises would go into effect July 1 because there was no bill in the Legislature that would postpone them.

The House speaker and Senate president each earn additional pay of $7,500.

State Rep. Gene Ward, (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley), said suspending the raises is “the right thing to do.”

Ward applauded Saiki on the House floor today, calling him “a man of his word.”

Ward had a proposed an amendment to postpone the raises for one year but Saiki came back with the two-year suspension.

”If this would not have been done, people would have taken it out on us during the 2022 elections,” Ward said. “People would have taken us to the cleaners. But elections or not, what we did today was the right thing. How do you give yourself a raise when the minimum wage isn’t increasing?”

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