Minimum wage bill sidetracked for more negotiations

Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) speaks at a Capitol news conference earlier this year. He wants to gradually raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A proposal to increase the minimum wage by $2 over five years was sidelined, at least temporarily, on Monday because it would cost the state millions of dollars.

The Senate Appropriations Committee put the bill by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) on suspense. There it will undergo more study, negotiation and potential change to reduce the cost before a final determination is made later this month on whether to send it to the Senate floor.

Alejo had originally proposed to raise the minimum wage by $1.25 an hour, to $9.25, over three years.

But he changed it to remove cost-of-living increases in future years. Under the new bill, the minimum wage would increase by 25 cents to $8.25 in January and gradually increase to $10 by Jan. 1, 2018.

The state government employs about 4,500 minimum wage workers so the original bill would have cost the state an extra $2.6 million.


Mitch Seaman, an advocate for the California Labor Federation said the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. “To us this bill is about fairness, but it is also about economic recovery,” he told the committee.

Jennifer Barrera, an advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, called the bill a “jobs killer,” and said the Legislature meets every year so there is no need to lock in wage increases over five years.

“We believe it will have a negative impact on jobs,” she told the committee.


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