Senate Democrats propose Indiana minimum wage increase

Senate Democrats said Wednesday their proposal to raise the state's minimum wage by almost $3 an hour would help working-class families stay above the poverty line, but their efforts will be blocked by majority Republicans.

The proposal would raise the minimum wage from the federal $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

"If you work 40 hours a week, you should not be below the federal poverty level," bill sponsor Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said.

But Democrats are outnumbered in the state Senate and previous efforts to raise the minimum wage have been blocked by Republicans. Plus, the chairman of the committee that the bill has been assigned to says he doesn't intend to take action on it.

"I'm a free-market guy and I think that the market sets rates and sets employee's rates," said Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville and chair of the Senate Labor Committee. "Everybody is free to earn as much as they want or as little as they want."

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have a higher minimum wage than $7.25.

Tallian said it was time for Indiana to follow suit and adjust it for an increase in the cost of living.

Republican senators believe an increase in Indiana is unnecessary, since the cost of living is much lower than the states that have chosen to go above the federal wage.

In addition to the minimum wage proposal, Democratic leaders also discussed proposals to expand the state's preschool pilot program, which currently is enrolling children in four counties and is expected to eventually include about 2,000 students. In October, Republican Gov. Mike Pence decided not to apply for an $80 million federal grant, which would have nearly tripled the number of children that could take part in the state-funded program.

Senate Democrats also are proposing legislation they say is aimed at improving statewide health programs and increase funding for student textbooks and school transportation.

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