Florida’s lowest-paid workers will get a raise Jan. 1, but a higher minimum wage sought by state and national Democrats doesn’t appear on the immediate legislative horizon.
The automatic increase of 12 cents an hour, recalculated by law each year based on the federal Consumer Price Index, will increase the state minimum wage to $8.05 in January, up from $7.93. Voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment aimed at annual minimum-wage hikes.
The upcoming increase will also boost the minimum wage for tipped employees from $4.91 an hour to $5.03.
The $8.05 rate — after the increases amounting to $4.80 per 40-hour work week and $249.60 a year — keeps Florida ahead of the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which has been in place since July 2009.
However, the rate remains below the $10.10-an-hour mark being pitched by President Barack Obama, state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and state Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami.
Bullard acknowledged Monday his proposal faces a tough future in the Republican-dominated Legislature. But with polls showing support in Florida and voters in other states approving similar measures, he believes pressure is growing so that Florida lawmakers will have to consider steps toward a higher minimum wage.
“Something will be done in the next few years,” Bullard said. “Every year that we wait there are more states that are moving to a higher increase and we’ll find ourselves as a state on the low end of the minimum wage scale. You have to do something that is going to entice your best and brightest. Even in low-wage fields, individuals will ultimately want to move to a state that is doing better business.”
Business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce have argued against such proposals, saying the $10.10 proposal will be a problem for small employers forced to absorb added labor costs.
“The voters have spoken and the automatic increase is in the Constitution,” Florida Chamber spokeswoman Edie Ousley said in an email. “However, attempts to raise wages beyond that can have adverse consequences where businesses raise prices or cut back on workforce.”
Still, the move to higher minimum wages has shown to be popular across the country.
In November, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota backed proposals to raise the minimum wages in their respective states. Illinois voters also supported a similar, but non-binding ballot item.
But Florida isn’t rushing to drastically alter its rate — already higher than all of its Southern neighbors.
Voters narrowly opted to keep Gov. Rick Scott in office over former Gov. Charlie Crist, whose campaign platform included raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
In an Oct. 21 gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville, Scott supported the idea of a minimum wage, but wouldn’t say what the number should be.
“How would I know? I mean, the private sector decides wages,” Scott said during the debate.
During an Oct. 15 debate, Scott argued against raising the rate to $10.10 an hour, citing a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projection for the entire nation.
“The CBO says that if we raise the minimum wage the way Charlie wants to do it, it would lose 500,000 jobs,” Scott said. “I don’t want to lose those jobs.”
The CBO estimate also projected that 16.5 million workers nationwide would get raises, resulting in $31 billion in additional wages.
Rich Templin, legislative director of the AFL-CIO of Florida, said the state’s political and business leaders need to look at the long-term potential of the $10.10 per-hour proposal.
“We’re overly reliant on tourist dollars because people living here don’t have money to spend themselves. That’s a failed policy,” Templin said. “Job creators are not Wal-Mart. It’s the people that shop at Wal-Mart that create jobs.”
Templin argued that a rate hike would increase spending, reduce the need for public services and boost sales taxes, which produce more revenue for the state.
“We need money in the pockets of consumers, that is what drives the economy of Florida, and right now they don’t have money to spend,” Templin said. Lawmakers “can talk about all the things they do for the business community, but when is the last time they did something for workers?”
The proposal by Bullard and Stafford, (SB 114 and HB 47) will be considered during the legislative session that starts in March.
Asked about the chances for the proposal to advance, Katie Betta, spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, simply replied Monday that the bill is being reviewed so it could be referred to the appropriate committees.
Bullard proposed a similar measure in the 2014 session, but the idea failed to get taken up in committees. The same fate was met by its 2014 House version, which was also filed by Stafford.
I am all for having a life sustaining minimum wage that a person can live on and have the basics in life. However, it seems that every time the minimum wage gets raised, the prices on everything go up, so what is the advantage of increasing minimum wage if those people now have to pay more for the same product or service? It also seems that prices rise much higher percentage than the minimum wage It’s giving on one hand and taking it away with the other. An increase $4.80 a week more or $249 a year is chump change nothing.
Then, as prices rise more and more, the “lower middle class” starts falling by the wayside because they can’t afford the rising prices and the economy doesn’t do well and that has it’s ripple effects also.
Sherry Epley says
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ALL business owners took just a tiny bit less in “profits” . . . that are for many, many companies at an all time high! In this way, they could at least make an effort to treat their employees decently. . . without passing those expenses on to the consumer. American GREED. . . Capitalism at its worst!
Agree I am sick of it
it is an ENTRY wage not a LIVING wage..wake up people, the increase will be passed on to you!!!!
Have you ever seen the lines at McDonald’s for breakfast and lunch? It’s a gold mine!
They can afford to pay their people 15.00 an hour comfortably. No, they’d rather most of
their employees work for peanuts. This is why nobody really gives a damn at McDonalds.
Some employees seem to be sleepwalking, and I don’t blame them one bit.
Ask yourself: do you think that the food is prepared conscientiously by their mostly disgruntled workforce?
Take a look at Chic-Fil-A and notice the good attitude and quality food served.
Those workers are paid a living wage, not minimum. Their employer understands that its employees are the face of the franchise. From what I understand – business is great.
Minimum wage helps no one and drains money from communities in the form of financial assistance,
for example: food stamps and cash assistance. The only one helped is the employer with cheap labor.
You can’t live on $8.00 an hour, let alone support your family. Couple that with employers limiting you to
Poverty – it’s what’s for dinner….
Poverty…it’s a choice.
Seminole Pride says
I was always told that minimum wage was only for those that were starting in the work force at entry level .Yes, I at one time had a minimum wage job when I got my first job at 15 years old. But I knew that I would increase my wages by going to college, and graduating in my field of study, and or going to a trade school and learning a trade. Minimum wage was never intended for those who had been in the work force for many years with families and living expenses.
Even employees who are not entry level and making more than minimum wage get their hours cut so even if they were earning $15.00 and hour, they don’t work 40 hours a week, so their salary is very low, even if the hourly rate is twice minimum wage. Employers have their workers over a barrel.
This is economic lunacy and is nothing more than a “feel good” attempt to win a couple of votes. It does very little in the short term and is a negative impact in the long term.
The very real and important economic concern is the de-valuing of the US dollar. This is a direct result of quantitative easing and keynsian economic fallacy that has been perpetuated on the US by the fed reserve for going on a decade.
People need to quit being used…