Hawaii May Soon Become The First State To Implement Universal Basic Income

The move "boldly declares that all families in Hawaii deserve basic financial security," said State Rep. Chris Lee

Hawaii May Soon Become The First State To Implement Universal Basic Income
Photo: Russell Shaw Higgs/Creative Commons

Hawaii has become the first state to officially begin exploring the possibility of a universal basic income (UBI) after a bill requesting the creation of a “basic economic security working group” recently passed both houses of the state legislature.

A UBI would, if passed, guarantee every resident a fixed income, regardless of their employment status or any other factors that come into play with welfare programs like food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Numerous countries have experimented with a basic income, but the idea has never gained much traction in the United States.

The Hawaii bill was put forth by State Rep. Chris Lee (D), who in a Reddit post on Thursday explained the motivations behind the measure and the ambitions driving the movement demanding economic justice for all.

“I introduced House Concurrent Resolution 89 this year to start a conversation about our future,” Lee wrote.

He continued:

HCR 89 does two things. First, it boldly declares that all families in Hawaii deserve basic financial security. As far as I’m told it’s the first time any state has made such a pronouncement, but I think it’s an important statement of our values here in Hawaii on which we seek to act.

HCR 89 also establishes a Basic Economic Security Working Group co-chaired by the Department of Labor and Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to analyze our state’s economy, and find ways to ensure all families have basic financial security, including an evaluation of different forms of a full or partial universal basic income. The group will eventually be reporting back to the State Legislature with further recommendations and next steps.

While acknowledging there is much work to do before a UBI becomes reality, Lee concluded the dire economic circumstances faced by so many in Hawaii, and throughout the country, demand urgent action and radical solutions.

“In a state with more homeless per capita than nearly anywhere else, a growing divide between those who have and those who have not, and a service-based economy with tremendous exposure to disruption, it’s time to start thinking ahead,” Lee concluded.

“As innovation and automation displace jobs and transform the marketplace, it will require a paradigm shift in policy to ensure that the economy remains stable, everyone benefits, and no one is left behind.”

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