Calling last year’s minimum wage hike a good first step, the California Senate approved a measure Thursday that would further lift the pay floor to $13 an hour by 2017. The bill by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, comes about a month before the state’s minimum wage is set to increase from $8 an hour to $9 in July as part of legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that also included another $1 per hour by 2016.
Leno’s SB 935 would override and increase the ladder raise as minimum wage would move to $11 in 2015, $12 in 2016 and $13 by 2017. Starting in 2018, the bill calls for additional adjustments annually for inflation. The bill is sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of California and SEIU California State Council and is now headed to the stat Assembly for consideration.
“No one should be working full-time and living in poverty,” Leno said. “Even with our increase last year, Californians will still be paid poverty wages and qualify for public assistance.”
Leno said the bill would benefit 7.9 million Californians, whose minimum wage paychecks mean they live in poverty and depend on social welfare programs. Leno said that dynamic means taxpayers are “subsidizing the largest corporations paying these poverty wages.”
The California Chamber of Commerce labeled the bill a “job killer,” a point reiterated by several Republican lawmakers. The bill received the bare-minimum votes – 21-12 – needed to garner a majority approval in the Senate.
Republicans who spoke against the bill said it would hurt California businesses and lead to fewer restaurants, shops and other business hiring.
“The minimum wage is meant to be an entry-level wage,” said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto. “It’s for kids, summer jobs.”
Leno said the arguments Republicans leveled against his bill were not factual, saying 75 percent of Californians who earn minimum wage are adults. He said San Francisco is a good example that raising minimum wage doesn’t mean a loss in jobs. The city has the nation’s highest minimum wage among large cities at $10.74, which is top in the state, and yet has the lowest unemployment in California.
Efforts are under way to further lift the minimum wage in the Bay Area. Activists in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond are supporting ballot measures to raise their city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by as soon as 2016.