Lawmakers Push for Higher Minimum Wage with Federal and State Initiatives

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miniPresident Obama’s initiative to raise the nation’s minimum wage has already gained legislative support at the state and federal level. Though Obama suggested raising  the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour during his State of the Union address, the newly drafted Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would raise minimum wage by almost three full dollars to $10.10 an hour.

The law is sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and would also increase the tipped wage, which has remained at $2.13 for decades. Tipped wages would match 70 percent of the standard minimum wage. If passed, the law would also call for annual adjustments to the minimum wage based on the national cost of living.

Wholesaler Costco became the first major business to support the act, with the president and CEO, Craig Jelinek, suggesting that the minimum wage should go even higher. Costco is well known for its high wages, with standard employees earning about $45,000 according to Fortune Magazine.

“At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business,” Jelinek said in a statement. “We pay a starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business, and we are still able to keep our overhead costs low.”

In New York, the state Assembly passed a new measure that would raise the minimum wage to $9 by a large margin. Republicans in the state Senate have opposed a raise in minimum wage, but may be open to negotiations. The Wall Street Journal reports that GOP members proposed a series of tax breaks for employers earlier in the week, and may seek out a compromise between the two proposed measures.

“The Senate has to get off the dime — 17 dimes and one nickel to be exact,” Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Manhattan, told the Journal. “This is a matter of fairness, a matter of equity.”

While Democrats continue to push for a higher minimum wage, one conservative lobby group is looking to decrease the current minimum wage at the state level. Politicians working with the support of the American Legislative Exchange Council have proposed 67 different laws in 25 different states to limit minimum wage increases and scale back overtime compensation.

The Guardian reports that 11 of those bills eventually passed, preventing local legislators from raising the minimum wage. Should the federal minimum be raised however, employers nationwide would be forced to comply.

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