The bill to raise California's minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2018
faces what could be its final legislative hurdle -- and possibly some
adjustments -- when it is heard before a Senate committee on Friday, Aug. 30.
Assembly Bill 10 was scheduled to be heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month but was put into suspension. That means that senators were seeking more information on the effects of the bill, including fiscal effects, before they would consider passing it along.
If AB 10 is passed by the appropriations committee, it would go to the full Senate for a vote, probably within the next week, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, the bill's sponsor, said in an interview. Alejo, D-Watsonville, introduced similar bills to increase the pay of California's lowest-paid workers in 2010 and 2011, but both failed to get through the appropriations committee on the State Assembly side.
This time, Alejo said, he thinks it will go through, but he added that the bill could still see amendments added to it before it goes to the Senate floor.
"We're much closer in terms of building a consensus and agreement," Alejo said. "I don't take it for granted. This was a heavy-lifting bill. But we've worked with all the stakeholders on it."
The bill as currently written would raise minimum wage across California from its current $8 per hour to $8.25 on Jan. 1 of next year. It would then go to $8.75 per hour in 2015, to $9.25 per hour in 2016, $9.50 per hour in 2017 and cap off at $10 on Jan. 1, 2018.
Alejo's measure already has one major amendment. When he first introduced it late last year, it had just three incremental increases, to $9.25 per hour in 2016, but it included a provision to index future increases to the rate of inflation.
That part of the bill was dropped in June and the 2017 and 2018 raises were added. The cost of living adjustment was taken off, mostly to satisfy business owners who worried about economic uncertainties at the same time they were going to have to face inflation-mandated pay raises.
Alejo said amendments that could be offered this week could decrease the number of incremental raises, or delay the first increase from January of next year to July.
"Some groups are going to be against any raise," Alejo said. "I don't know if there's anything that can convince them."
No data exists on how many Inland Southern California workers are making minimum wage, but an estimated 295,000 people worked in retail and accommodations jobs in July, according to the latest state report. That represents about one-quarter of all Riverside and San Bernardino workers who collected paychecks that month.
A minimum wage worker in California who gets steady 40-hour weeks would earn $16,640 a year. That would put that person only a little above the poverty line for a two-person household, which was $15,130 in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Business groups have opposed a minimum wage increase, saying that it would discourage employers from hiring and stymie economic growth. Bobby Spiegel, CEO and president of the Corona Chamber of Commerce, said this would play right into the hands of other states that are trying to draw businesses away from California.
Spiegel said he'd favor postponing any increase for two years to give business owners a chance to get onto better footing.
"The minimum wage is not supposed to be a living wage," Spiegel said. "The point is, it's an entry-level, start-off point."
Follow Jack Katzanek on Twitter: @JackKatzanek and check his blog on pe.com/business
(c)2013 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)
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