The bill is known as House Concurrent Resolution 89 (HCR 89). It was introduced earlier this year by Hawaii state representative Chris Lee and was meant to ‘start a conversation about our future’. Just two months later, it has unanimously passed both houses of the Hawaii State Legislature.
Rep. Chris Lee made the news known through a Reddit post he personally wrote. Aside from providing an overview of what HCR 89 is all about, he also mentioned the driving force that prompted him to come up with his proposition. Simply put, he was concerned that our economy was being transformed by ‘innovation, automation and inequality’, which is why he wanted to initiate a ‘more public discussion’ so actions can be taken to ensure that as the economy changes and progresses, everyone gets to benefit from it and no one gets left behind.
As he explained to Mother Jones: “It’s past time that we had a serious talk about not just tweaking our economic policies but having a new discussion from the ground up about what our values and priorities are. We need to take proactive action to chart a stable path forward for our economy and all of our residents.”
HCR 89 has 2 main provisions. First, all families in Hawaii will be entitled to basic financial security. Second, a Basic Economic Security Working Group will be established for the specific purpose of analyzing the state’s economy and finding ways to ensure that provision 1 will be enforced. The group’s task will include evaluation of various UBI-related forms, reporting findings back to the State Legislature, and providing recommended courses of action.
Universal Basic Income is a system of income distribution wherein every citizen regularly receives a fixed amount of stipend from the government. The income is given without any strings attached, regardless of age, gender, employment standing or social status, and should ideally be sufficient to cover one’s most basic expenses like food, clothing and shelter.
While UBI isn’t an entirely new concept, it has recently been gaining ground as technological advancements, especially automation, has been spurring the threat of mass unemployment. So far, Finland has already started a UBI program, while trials may soon begin in Canada, India and Kenya. Private UBI initiatives are being planned in some other locations too.
In the U.S., Alaska has already been running a UBI-ish program since 1982 — giving its residents a variable annual payout funded by revenues from its oil industry. That means if Hawaii’s UBI program becomes a reality, it will technically make the 50th state of the US of A to be the second one to implement such program. Which still won’t be so bad, right?
By the way, aside from embracing the idea of UBI, Hawaii also happens to be the first state to formally commit to the provisions of the 2015 Paris Climate Treaty even after President Trump decided to withdraw from it. For Hawaii residents, those are clear indications of the kind of leaders they have — not just looking out for their constituents’ welfare, but obviously concerned about the world’s plight as well.