The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would gradually raise the minimum wage in California from the current $8 an hour to $13 in 2017, despite warnings from the California Chamber of Commerce that the bill is a "job killer."
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said his bill is necessary to help lift many of the 7.9 million Californians being paid minimum wage out of poverty. "Income inequality has been spoken of by our president as the defining challenge of our time," Leno told his colleagues.
He said the current minimum wage is so low it allows many who receive it to get public assistance. "It is our tax dollars that are subsidizing the largest corporations paying these poverty wages." Leno said. No other state has a minimum wage of $13 an hour.
Republican lawmakers said the increase will result in businesses raising prices or cutting their workforce. They noted that the Legislature last year approved a bill that would raise the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 on July 1 and to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.
Leno's bill would raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015, to $12 a year later, and to $13 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017. After that, the minimum wage would increase automatically with the consumer price index.
The bill was approved by a bare-majority 21-12 vote and sent to the Assembly for consideration.
"The minimum wage is meant to be for entry-level jobs," said Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), who opposed the measure. "It's for kids, summer jobs."