MADISON (WITI) — President Obama started the “minimum wage debate,” and now it’s coming to Wisconsin. Should Wisconsin’s minimum wage be increased? Would an increase have a positive or negative impact on the state’s economy?
Some economists say poorer people tend to spend extra money, so an increase in minimum wage could provide a small boost to the overall economy, but others argue higher wages could mean fewer jobs.
It was a surprise in President Obama’s State of the Union address.
“Tonight, let’s declare that no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty and raise the minimum wage,” President Obama said.
President Obama called for increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour.
“It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead,” President Obama said.
The federal hike seems unlikely, so the issue is playing itself out on the state level. 19 states have their minimum wages set higher than the federal mandate. Wisconsin isn’t one of them, and Rep. Cory Mason (D – Racine) wants to change that.
“A minimum wage basically means the employer would pay you less if they could, but they can’t. That’s what a minimum wage basically says,” Rep. Mason said.
Rep. Mason is introducing a bill in the Wisconsin Assembly that would increase the minimum wage to $7.60 an hour, and tie it to inflation, so wages would go up with the cost of goods and services.
“What we’re trying to say is that work is worth some dignity and that you shouldn’t be below poverty if you’re working full-time, year-round,” Rep. Mason said.
Rep. Mark Honadel (R – South Milwaukee) is a former small business owner. He has studied the impact on businesses and hiring. He says raising the minimum wage could end up raising the unemployment rate.
“I got my hands on some data from Washington, that shows one very, very important fact: every time minimum wage goes up, everybody in the central cities, Hispanics, African-Americans lose jobs,” Rep. Honadel said.
“If you’re making minimum wage right now, you’re underneath the federal poverty level. It’s not enough so you can raise a family and support yourself,” Rep. Mason said.
“Rep. Mason would be at odds because we look at the minimum wage not as a family-supporting wage, just as an entry-level wage for young people to get their foot in the door for a job in high school,” Rep. Honadel said.
Rep. Mason says he believes there is popular support for his proposal, but right now, there are not enough votes to pass it in the Assembly.
Right now, there is no Republican co-sponsor, and without that, the bill is likely going nowhere.