Less than totally truthful is the most gracious way to describe some of the responses being provided by State Representatives when asked to explain their inaction or lack of support for SB676 and SB614 (increasing the minimum wage to $12 in 2022 and SB614 blocking the tax on unemployment benefits).
Engaging directly with YOUR particular District Representative is critically important and the most effective way to impact public policy and YOUR state government. Some Representatives will reply with an automatic standard response, some will respond individually and actually engage you in a conversation, and some will simply ignore you.
Navigating the often conflicting information can be challenging. To help readers through this process below is a short “cheat sheet.”
Your District Representative is elected by you and people who live and vote in your District. They should welcome your involvement and be responsive to your concerns.
If you believe the minimum wage should be at least $12 per hour and that unemployment benefits paid during the pandemic should not be subject to the state income tax, please contact your District Representative and tell them of your support. Please also ask them directly if they support these two measures, AND if they will support passing them on the floor of the House this year, before the end of the 2021 session.
This is how democracy is supposed to work. Discussions between residents and representatives, and then a public vote. But it won’t work unless you actually call and email. So please reach out and contact your Representative. Today if possible, but certainly by the end of this week.
Political Obfuscation – Deciphering The Truth: Here is a “cheat sheet” that will prepare you to rebut likely responses that are sometimes less than entirely truthful.
1) Claim: The bills are dead and the deadlines to pass them have passed. Rebuttal: Well, not exactly – A majority of members can call for a hearing and a full vote anytime between now and the end of the session.
2) Claim: There aren’t enough votes to pass so why vote? Rebuttal: The truth is we will never know if the votes are there or not if there is never an actual vote. Why would Representatives not want to vote on such an important issue?
3) Claim: Now is not the time to increase the minimum wage. Rebuttal: Actually – Passing SB676 does not increase the minimum wage “now.” The wage will only increase by $1.90 in July of 2022. In addition, 20 other states are in fact increasing their minimum wage this year.
4) Claim: Removing the state income tax on unemployment benefits will cost too much money. Rebuttal: The state is proposing to give $740 million to employers in unemployment tax support at the same time they are taking $190 million away from the unemployed via an income tax on their benefits. If needed, the legislature could finally begin taxing Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), increase the tax on capital gains, and or increase the corporate and personal income tax on those earning over $400,000 per year.
5) Claim: Helping the unemployed by granting them state income tax relief will violate the American Rescue Plan Act. Rebuttal: According to Janet L. Yellen the Secretary of the Treasury: “nothing in the Act prevents States from enacting a broad variety of tax cuts. That is, the Act does not ‘deny States the ability to cut taxes in any manner whatsoever.”
6) Claim: House Leadership does not support passing these two bills. Rebuttal: A majority of members in the House of Representatives can choose to hear, vote on, and pass these bills if they want.
7) Claim: The legislature will do something for working people, next year. Rebuttal: Even if this were true, passing a bill in 2022 means the help would not come until 2023. The time to help Hawaii’s unemployed and low-wage workers is now. The Senate has already passed SB676, all that’s needed is for the House to also say yes.
Bottom line: The Representatives who offer these excuses do not believe low-wage workers deserve a minimum wage increase, and those unemployed during the pandemic do not deserve a tax break – but they are afraid to tell you this.
Everything else is a smokescreen.
SB676 and SB614 offer much-needed and tangible help to the unemployed and low-wage workers. Many of these people are literally standing in line for food and are months behind on their rent.
Increasing the minimum wage is a top Party priority, both nationally and locally. This past week, over 20 different labor organizations formally and publicly asked the House to allow a vote and pass these bills. Well over 500,000 workers in Hawaii will be positively impacted if these bills pass.
Yet, the Democratic Majority in the House will not even hold a hearing, let alone a vote.
There is still time. There is time for Speaker Saiki and/or a majority in the House to come together and pass SB676 and SB614.
Hawaii’s unemployed and low-wage workers deserve support and respect, and they deserve to benefit from the passage of SB614 and SB676.
Please take the time to call and email YOUR District Representative. Use this handy “Find your legislator” tool – https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/fyl/
or go here and review the list and contact information for all Representatives: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=H