The Democratic majority in the California legislature has found themselves at odds over a decision to delay a bill that would increase the state minimum wage to $11 an hour.
The bill was among over a hundred put on hold as the legislative session nears its Sept. 11 end. Currently the minimum wage is $9 an hour. Thursday was the deadline for deciding what bills would be taken up. Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, warned the decision would hurt state residents.
“Any further study or delay of such an increase undermines working Californians who deserve to be paid a living wage,” Leno said in a written statement to The Associated Press. “It should not be legal to pay sub-poverty wages in our state.”
Despite this, other lawmakers noted that raising the minimum wage was still a top priority. The problem, however, is there are still a few lingering questions and alternative approaches to consider. Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, stated that next year he might explore increasing wages by region instead of statewide.
“Raising the minimum wage is a crucial next step for California to lift working families out of poverty,” Gomez told the Los Angeles Times. “We look forward to working with our legislative colleagues and the governor to make that happen.”
For Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the Leno measure did not go far enough. It was for that reason she also supported the move not to take it up Thursday. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s own administration has also come out against the bill. Its issue is that the measure is too high. His Finance Department noted the better choice is the plan approved in 2013 which only goes to $10 an hour.
“The Department of Finance is opposed to this bill because it results in significant, unbudgeted costs to the General Fund,” an analysis noted. “Although the state would save some money on lower provision of benefits under some state funded programs, the increased expenses from paying state workers would more than offset those gains.”
Leno, however, contested the delays as a bad idea. His hope was to get it voted on and to Brown first thing next year.
“We must act soon to lift our communities out of poverty and to boost our economy,” Leno continued. “Our intent is to pass our amended version of the bill to the governor’s desk in January.”
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