Hawaii lawmakers start new legislative session

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers gathered Wednesday to open a new session of the Legislature a day after leaders unveiled a long list of measures they hope will address Hawaii’s punishingly high cost of living.

The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate on Tuesday released outlines of a joint bills package that would increase the minimum wage, make the state’s earned income tax credit refundable and use state lands to develop leasehold housing.

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The measures would also expand early childhood education and create a new agency that will oversee major construction projects and repairs at public schools.

Gov. David Ige endorsed the measures and appeared at Tuesday’s news conference with legislative leaders.

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The measures respond in part to problems highlighted in a report sponsored by Aloha United Way showing that half of Hawaii’s residents struggled to make ends meet.

The study found 37% of Hawaii’s population have jobs yet can’t afford basic necessities to remain stable and self-sufficient. Another 11% of households live below the federal poverty level.

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