Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Minimum wage bill unlikely to be heard

A bill in the state Assembly to increase the minimum wage has been stalled in committee for nine months with no indication it will be brought up any time soon.

Assembly Bill 66 proposes an increase to $6.80 an hour, up from the federal level of $5.15 an hour.

The bill would also allow for future minimum-wage increases to take effect, without the Legislature’s permission, based on the federal poverty level for a family of three. Due to changes in the poverty rate, if the bill were passed today, the minimum wage would be $7.05 an hour.

However, the bill has been stalled in the Assembly Labor and Workforce Development Committee, and Jason Rostan, a spokesperson for committee chair

Jean Hundertmark, R-Clintonville, said there is currently no scheduled public hearing.

“It won’t come up for a hearing this year, and in the spring it’s unsure if it will come up,” Rostan said.

Rostan said if proponents of the measure could show credible evidence in favor of raising the minimum wage, they would consider holding a hearing on the bill.

Rep. Mark Miller, D-Monona, sent a letter this week to Hundertmark to recommend a public hearing. He said it has been stalled up to this point because of business interests in the state.

“Not raising the minimum wage means we’re subsidizing those businesses that pay the minimum wage,” Miller said. “[The bill] will continue to be delayed as long as it is being opposed by Wisconsin’s manufacturers and commerce.”

However, Rostan said they have not been in contact with Miller’s office and have not received his letter. He said a minimum-wage increase must be carefully reviewed because of the negative effect it could have on the economy.

“A raise in the minimum wage would hurt small businesses rather than large businesses,” Rostan said. “[Small business owners] have stated that they would lay people off if a minimum-wage increase was put into effect, and at this point we’re not willing to go down that road.”

Rostan said because the states surrounding Wisconsin have a similar minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, a dramatic increase might encourage businesses to leave the state, which would hurt the economy.

Other legislators, such as Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, insist the government must focus more on aiding low-income families.

“Our concern is making sure working people have a minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living and inflation,” Turner said.

He said if the minimum wage is left untouched, by 2003 inflation will drive the rate down to $4.67 an hour in terms of 1999 dollar amounts.

Turner said according to President Bush’s economic philosophy, giving working families more money would also profit the state economy.

“Lower-income families won’t save the money, but will spend it to pay for basic necessities, so the economy would benefit,” Turner said.

But Turner said he would agree to have a minimum-wage increase phased in over several years to lessen the impact on Wisconsin businesses.

Miller said when the national minimum-wage rate was increased in the early ’90s, the move did not hurt the economy.

“An increase in the minimum wage had absolutely no impact on employment,” Miller said. “There is no correlation between a high minimum-wage rate and low employment.”

Miller said if the bill eventually passes, 200,000 employees in Wisconsin would receive a pay increase.

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