Amidst fears of technology leading to job automation, Lee's Universal Basic Income (UBI) measure would ensure that that all residents of Hawaii are able to receive a steady income, regardless of their employment status. Prominent billionaire businessmen including Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk have expressed their support for the bill.
"In the modern world, everybody should have the opportunity to work and to thrive. Most countries can afford to make sure that everybody has their basic needs covered," Virgin Group founder Branson wrote in a recent blog post. "One idea that could help make this a reality is a universal basic income. This concept should be further explored to see how it can work practically."
Lee's bill, which was introduced earlier this year, calls for every family in the state to be ensured basic financial security. Many of Hawaii's key job sectors including transportation, food, tourism, retail, and medical industries will likely move to automation in the coming months and years. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that nine percent of jobs in America (about 13 million) could become automated.
"Hawaii’s heavy reliance on a service-based economy makes it more susceptible to economic disruption and job loss than any other states, and work must begin now to address the rapid automation, innovation, and globalization that already is beginning to displace significant amounts of local jobs, resulting in worsening income equality," the bill reads.
If the measure passes, it will allow part-time workers and individuals seeking job retraining to maintain a basic standard of living.
State officials are currently analyzing the effects of automation and discussing whether it's best to introduce a partial or full universal basic income.
According to lawmakers, introducing UBI in Hawaii will likely be a long process.
"Basic income is such a broad subject, it could encompass hundreds of different kinds of mechanisms to help families," Lee told CBS. "You don’t have to enact the entire thing in one massive program; you can take bits and pieces that make sense."