New Year sees hike
in minimum wage

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Hawaii's poorest-paid workers will ring in the New Year with a nearly 9 percent pay raise under one of just a few state laws taking effect Jan. 1.

The state's minimum wage will increase to $6.25 an hour from $5.75 an hour under the second phase of a pay hike approved by the Legislature in 2001. The first step that went into effect Jan. 1, 2002, increased the pay to $5.75 from $5.25, the first increase in nine years.

Less than 3 percent of the Hawaii work force, or about 17,000 employees, get the minimum wage, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Another measure taking effect with the end of the year will see the end of the state Department of Education's storeroom, which was used for 30 years to distribute commonly used educational, office and custodial supplies to the public schools. The law terminates the fund used to operate the storehouse.

The storehouse came under fire early last year in a report from state Auditor Marion Higa, who called it a "dinosaur" that needed replacing. State School Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, the Legislature and then Gov. Ben Cayetano agreed.

Higa pointed to 166 American flags destroyed by termites in the storehouse as one of several examples of waste in the storage and distribution system that handled about $2 million in supplies each year and served more than 260 public schools statewide.

She also cited a lack of internal controls over supply inventory and inaccurate inventory records.

Also as of Jan. 1, anyone importing a motor vehicle into Hawaii after buying it from an out-of-state dealer will have to show proof that the state's 4 percent use tax has been paid before the vehicle can be registered.

Lawmakers said it was a matter of fairness and equity because vehicles purchased in the state are subject to the 4 percent excise tax.

Also related to vehicles is a new law regulating warranties on vehicle anti-theft alarm systems, clarifying that the warranty agreements to cover losses if the device fails are not insurance.

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

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