Leaders in the state House of Representatives set a high bar on the Opening Day of the legislative today by vowing to provide $600 million to help clear the backlog of Native Hawaiians waiting to get into livable homes, raising Hawaii’s $10.10 an hour minimum wage and demanding the Department of Defense remove its fuel and tanks at Red Hill and decommission the system.
The marker laid down by state House Speaker Scott Saiki was met with applause, especially with the pledge to provide the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands with a one-time infusion of $600 million.
State Rep. Gene Ward, (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley), an advocate for helping Native Hawaiians — especially to get them housed on their ancestral lands — then rose on the House floor and expressed his gratitude to Saiki.
Ward said he would “mark this day as a historical day for the people of Hawaii” — 102 years after the Hawaiian Homes Commission was founded.
Ward called the Opening Day of the legislative session for the House “a new day for the people of Hawaii, particularly the Hawaiian community that’s on the wait list that is now 28,000 people strong. Thank you for what you’re doing …. Thank you speaker, mahalo, mahalo. This is a day that’s going to go down in history.”
Saiki said the House wants to increase the minimum wage to $18 an hour but did not provide details on how many years it would take to get there.
In speaking to reporters after the floor session, Saiki said the largest increases likely would occur initially, but did not provide specifics.
Along with increasing the minimum wage, Saiki said in his speech that the House will “increase the food tax credit, and make the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable and permanent. This package will give a family an additional $33,600 in income.”
Overall, Saiki said, “This year, the House is proposing unprecedented legislation that, taken together, will help over 100,000 households, provide homes, and restore cultural practices that ordinary people have fought for, and even died for, throughout their lives.”
State Rep. Dee Morikawa, (D, Niihau-Koloa-Kokee), opened the House session with a prayer and asked members to “pray for the people of Tonga that they get through this very difficult time of tragedy and uncertainty. We pray for guidance as we begin another session. … We pray for all those affected by this unprecedented pandemic. … We ask for the strength to continue being the leaders that people depend on.”