$15 minimum wage passes U.S. House, likely to be on Florida ballots in 2020

Politics

TAMPA (WFLA) – A plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour passed the House of Representatives Friday.

Most lawmakers say it will die in the Senate, but Florida voters will be voting whether to make it state law next year.

Well-known attorney John Morgan–the man who championed medical marijuana’s passage in 2016–is spearheading an effort to put the measure on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in 2020.

Many Democrats have championed the idea on the national level, including most of the party’s candidates for president.

But here in Tampa, many small business owners aren’t in favor of the idea.

David Bell is the CEO of USA Mobile Drug Testing, the largest on-site drug and alcohol testing company in the nation with 27 locations and about 100 full-time employees.

He said a $15 minimum wage would make it harder for him to compete.

“If you’re increasing wages at the low end, you increase wages of everybody. Then you’ve got taxes on top of that. All the additional costs skyrocket, which makes it more challenging for me to be competitive as a small business compared to a conglomerate.”

But rising wages for everyone might not be a bad thing overall for the economy.

Economists call it a ripple effect: lower-wage employees usually spend that extra income, because they’re often living paycheck-to-paycheck, so that money goes back into the economy.

“That becomes income or revenue for whatever business they spend that money on,” said Dr. Michael Snipes, Economics professor at USF Sarasota-Manatee. “That business can then spend on increased wages or invest in their business. It’s kind of a rising tide lifts all boats situation.”

A report this month from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates 1.3 million Americans could lose their jobs if the minimum wage goes to $15/hour.

However, the report also estimated that same number of workers–1.3 million–would be lifted out of poverty, and that wages would go up for at least 27 million people.

It’s been more than 10 years since lawmakers raised the minimum wage — the longest such period in U.S. history.

“Because of inflation, the value of the dollar, the purchasing power of dollar, is lower than 2009,” Dr. Snipes said. “So people are actually worse off.”

For small- and medium-sized businessmen like Bell, higher wages mean tough decisions–like whether it’s worth it to keep the business open.

“Am I gonna take this additional $40,000 and pay the 10 staff–and it’s taking away from my family–or am I now be out in the workforce trying to make a living?”

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