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

Pay raises of 10% that were scheduled to go into effect for state legislators July 1 were tentatively suspended Tuesday, 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 Tuesday’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 canceled. There’s still some work we have to do for our economic reopening.”

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

In a statement, Gov. David Ige said, “I fully support any action to suspend pay raises for myself, my cabinet, judges, and legislators that were set to go into effect on July 1. I informed my cabinet months ago that I would not be taking the salary increase recommended by the Commission on Salaries, and I asked my cabinet to do the same. As public servants, it is our duty to do our part to help the state rebuild the economy, while keeping the health and safety of our community our top priority.”

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 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 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 Tuesday, calling him “a man of your word in doing the fiscally economical and political thing that, as during a pandemic, is the best thing to do, the right thing to do.”

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 Tuesday was the right thing. How do you give yourself a raise when the minimum wage isn’t increasing?”

The House on Tuesday also passed third reading of the latest versions of:

>> SB 512, which would expand the “double up food bucks program” administered by the state Department of Agriculture to make fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins sold at “farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and other direct food retailers accessible to families or individuals who reside in this State and who receive assistance through the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program,” according to the bill.

>> SB 793, which would repeal existing law that exempts individuals with disabilities from minimum wage requirements.

>> SB 726, which would require officers serving a warrant to declare the officer’s office and business and wait 30 seconds before entry into a house, store or other building, subject to certain circumstances. Requires officers serving a warrant issued by a district court to do so in an authorized uniform and wear and use a body-worn video camera.

>> SB 309, which would make it a first-degree offense to create a “deep fake” image of a person onto another person who is nude or performing pornographic acts.

>> SB 834, which establishes the felony offense of importation, sale or possession of a childlike sex doll.

>> SB 343, which makes it a crime to sexually assault an animal.

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