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Minimum wage bills pushed in at least 30 states

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Minimum-wage increase proposals are getting the maximum push from Democrats in statehouses in more than half of U.S. states, highlighting the politically potent income inequality issue this year.

Lawmakers in at least 30 states are sponsoring or are expected to introduce wage hike measures, according to a national review by The Associated Press. They hope to notch state-level victories as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats remain stymied in attempts to raise the federal minimum wage above $7.25 an hour. The president is expected to mention the minimum wage in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Even in Republican-dominated capitals where the bills are longshots, the measures still give Democrats a chance to hammer home the popular theme of fair wages in what is an election year in most places.

"It's a no-brainer for any Democrat," said Neil Sroka, a strategist for progressive groups who is communications director at the Howard Dean-founded Democracy for America. "Congress is failing. They can take real action right in the states and have a demonstrable impact right here at home. For politics and policy, it's a winning strategy."

Minimum wage is a perennial issue that has taken on a higher profile amid the slowly recovering economy and growing public debate about income inequality. A Quinnipiac University poll this month found 71 percent of Americans in favor of raising the minimum wage — including more than half of Republicans polled.

Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, calls it an "organic issue that's bubbling up from the grassroots." But it's also being pressed by politicians and labor unions. Democrats challenging Republican governors have taken up the issue, and there are ballot initiatives in several states.

"We are facing a huge income gap that only continues to widen, where the workers at the top see large wage increases and the workers at the bottom are at a standstill. That needs to change," said Massachusetts Democratic Senate President Therese Murray.

Five states passed minimum wage measures last year, and advocates hope that number will grow as states from New Hampshire to Washington consider proposals. Many would push families above the federal poverty line, which is $15,730 for a family of two. In Iowa, a bill would hike the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. A Rhode Island bill would raise it from $8 to $9. And a year after New York approved a multiyear minimum wage hike, Assembly Democrats introduced another bill for 2014 sponsored by Labor Committee Chairman Carl Heastie of New York City that would accelerate the increase.

Labor unions and other advocates point to workers like Andrew Lloyd, who cleans the cabins, bathrooms and cockpits of airplanes between flights at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City for $8 an hour. With a wife and 1-year-old, he relies on food stamps to help stock the refrigerator and his paychecks barely cover diapers and other needs of his daughter. He said he can't afford a new pair of socks for himself.

"It's not enough. What we're making is not enough to support," Lloyd said. "There's just no way they can justify what is going on is right."

Opponents, many of them Republicans, argue that the higher wages translate into fewer jobs and higher consumer costs. So wage hike bills in Republican-controlled legislatures, like Florida and South Carolina, are not expected to pass. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the claim that working families need the boost to make ends meet makes him "cringe, because I know that statement is a lie."

"Even if we did raise the minimum wage, working families will still not be able to make ends meet on those jobs," Scott said. "We need good jobs that lead to good careers for our families, and that's what I am focused on."

Already, a Democrat-backed bill to increase Indiana's minimum wage by $1 was blocked by majority Republicans on a party-line vote Tuesday.

Win or lose, the legislation gives Democrats a potential weapon against Republican opponents. Eddie Vale, a Democratic strategist with close ties to labor unions, said Republicans who oppose a wage hike will face fierce criticism.

"There's a lot of people in this state that are making the minimum wage that are voting Republican right now," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Tennessee, where they plan to introduce a minimum wage bill this year. "Maybe if they see that they don't have their best interests in their heart, they might change their minds."

There's hope that success will breed more success. Vale, a top adviser at the Democratic super PAC American Bridge, said the thinking behind the push is to get things started at the state level, where lawmakers come into more direct contact with their constituents. Once state legislatures start moving, it will lend momentum to a federal expansion.

In Minnesota, Rep. Ryan Winkler said as the debate spreads to more states, lawmakers might be more comfortable boosting the wage floor in his state.

"It's not peer pressure, but it's safety in numbers," Winkler said. "It makes people feel like this is a mainstream thing to do."
 

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  • Choices
    It always amuses me when others try to dictate to business owners what they should pay their employees. Each employee is paid based on supply and demand and the VALUE of that position to their operation. If a business owners is FORCED to give raises to employees based on the effects of a minimum wages hike, they will RAISE THEIR PRICES which will affect everyone that buys their goods. Essentially, YOU are paying for that wage hike. Don't argue that most businesses won't raise their prices. THEY WILL. Business owners (the so called "wealthy") will not take the hit. They are already struggling with greater lending risk, the cost of added taxes and greater regulation. If the question was, "do you favor a minimum wage increase if it meant YOU will be paying more for the items you purchase everyday?", I would bet that most people would answer NO! Really, how hard is it to stand at the door and say, "Welcome to Walmart"? You have a CHOICE in this country as to what your vocation is. If anyone can do it, you get what you choose to do.
  • Earning a pay
    CB, corporations don't pay you based on your contribution. They pay you based on the replacement cost of your employment. And even that is based on seriously distorted assumptions of how low a specific pay should be. I have known people that have phenomenal skills compared to their peers, or even groups of such people, yet 90% of their pay is based on the pool of their peer pay in the entire industry. I haven't heard of a single corporation that recognizes individuals, and even less of teams, with percentage raises exceeding single digits. And I do think a big reason for that is because the self-important executives have no idea what their employees are actually contributing to the bottom line. The overpaid executives simply lack those skills.
  • Everybody gets a ticket
    @MarkusR - I also struggle internally with this idea of paying executives more while the lowest see small increases. Working at a large Corp. executives do receive nice paychecks, BUT for the most part they've earned it. Putting forth revolutionary ideas that generate huge potential future revenue, creating more jobs, and creating security for their current employees isn't always generated by the lowest paid positions. Most people can take part A and attach it to Part B with little training, but few can find market insights that will separate them from the competition. Why during its glide path does capitalism turn from providing opportunities to the masses and a chance to gain unlimited wealth to being viewed as this evil vessel of greed? Last time I checked everyone is given a ticket some just punch-out early and take a seat than to keep climbing.
    • Higher pay means fewer jobs?
      If higher pay means fewer jobs and higher prices, then why do the corporate big shots keep giving themselves ever greater raises and bonuses? Don't they know that they are hurting their own business? The people that work these lowest paid positions are really the ones that have to work the hardest for the fewest rewards.
    • on target
      You said it exactly the way that it is here. At the top of my concerns right now, is how the Indpls mayor and state governor, are so badly screwing up this mass transportation issue. Federal and state monies were POURED into the railroad, from Tipton to downtown, to make preparations for this commuter line, that I think the mayor wants to us BUSES for. They won't ever ride them, so it doesn't matter if the public has requested buses. Can u imagine riding a BUS from Noblesville to downtown Indy? Besides the additional air pollutants, buses will pour into the air, the traffic congestion they will cause, and the lack of speed that they will be able to travel in the outlining communities to downtown, almost makes this thing look like a joke! It is as embarrassing as the Murdoch crack about women and rape, and Pence refusing Medicaid rights for those who so desperately need them. With their wealth, they don't care about minimum wage; they won't have to ride buses from Noblesville to downtown, and Pence will never know about Medicaid needs. I don't know how those who are trying to survive on minimum wage have to feel right now, with food costs, and the state known for its taxes, are making, and don't really seem to care. This state is full of elitists who thrive on controlling the 'little people,' and as long as we have this system in this state, things are not going to change. I challenge the governor and mayor to ride these. buses to work, taking hours, when trains could have people downtown in less than 45 min. from Fishers. The buses we have now, are causing those downtown, major headaches, and they don't have to live on minimum wage and trying to support families. This government in IN, is so out of touch with the people's needs; they will never need Medicaid in order to survive.. things will not change until we get these guys out of office.
    • I will go you one further. Programs like Unemployment and welfare were never meant to be a career either. But the Democrats seem bent on expanding the dependency class. I made minimum wage for about 6 month when I earned my first raise. After that I never looked back. I worked my way through college and began my career that pays a living wage. While college is not for everyone, there are very few minimum wage jobs that do not offer hard workers the chance to advance into management. There are also quite a few jobs that with technical training will pay you more than many college degrees will. The end of America will not come from without, but from within when the dependency class becomes to large to support.
    • Next Steps
      Minimum Wage (MW) jobs were never intended to be life long career's. I feel bad for those that have to work MW jobs all their life, but they are intended to be steps to the next opportunity not a plateau.
    • Fair Wage HA!
      People get real, This is Indiana where we tax the serfs (poor) and support the Lords (wealthy). Indiana is like a Medieval Duchy where we the serfs must be kept in our places. Mimimum wage will stay Minimum here.
      • Please Democrats. Enjoy your Obamacare
        Democrats are about to get creamed this election cycle. Taking the focus off Obamacare isn't going to work. Republican Senate here we come.

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