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Politics // Just Thoughts
Bob Jones

UH Maintenance; Minimum Wage

You’ve read that the University of Hawaii needs about $490 million to catch up on backlogged repairs. So it wants to float bonds for that, using tuition revenue to repay the lenders.

But as one of my business-minded friends points out, this doesn’t address ongoing maintenance that keeps stuff from falling apart. It will only repair things that already have fallen apart.

The school’s chief financial officer admitted as much to the board of regents. This bond-tuition money would only be for “deferred maintenance.” The Legislature still would have to appropriate more state funds for renovation, routine maintenance, and urgent health and safety issues that arise.

So you see the problem here. The university never has been able to get enough money from the Legislature to keep up with current repairs. It needed almost $77 million this biennium just for health and safety projects. The lawmakers only OK’d $57 million.

One of the hangups will be that lawmakers might be more attuned to approving restoration of faculty salaries that were cut during the recent recession. That, they’ve said, should come from raises in the tuition. That makes it tough for the UH to do both salaries and repay bond money from tuition revenue.

The schedule regents approved in 2011 increases tuition by 7.5 percent each year for the next three years. Debt payments for deferred-maintenance bonds would eat up about 46 percent of that.

That doesn’t strike me as any more of a workable plan than that over-ambitious UH sports-money proposal a week earlier. * California is poised to raise its minimum wage to $10. Ours is stuck at $7.25. A full-time, non-tipped, minimum-wage worker here earns $290 a week, or $15,080 a year.

You cannot live on $15,080 in Hawaii.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study suggests a single adult needs $12.91 an hour for 40 hours to meet basic Honolulu expenses. For two adults with two children, it’s $24.81 an hour.

Washington state is at $9.19 minimum. Oregon at $8.95. Alaska at $7.75.

Our cost-of-living growth rate is beyond the average wage growth rate. That wasn’t always the case.

So I could buy our first house at waterfront Koko Isle Circle for $36,000 in 1968; our second on the waterfront in Punaluu in 1970 for $82,000; our third in 1974 at Diamond Head for $186,000. They were very affordable with our salaries at the time.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says Hawaii’s growth rate of personal income from last year has been minus 1 percent. Nothing to brag about.

I’ve included a chart of minimum wages by state. Nothing to brag about unless we’re happy to be with the Deep South states who pay the least the feds will let them get away with.

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