SALT LAKE CITY -- A Salt Lake County legislator wants to increase minimum wage by $1 an hour, saying the proposal comes down to an issue of fairness.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, has opened a legislative bill file addressing the state's minimum wage. He said the measure proposed bumping the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour in the Beehive State to $8.25. The federal minimum wage standard is currently $7.25 but states have the ability to set their own minimum wage scales.
"You can't live on $7.25 an hour. It's an issue of fairness," Dabakis said.
He said he would be willing to see the wage scale bumped up 50 cents a year, if need be, to raise the state standard. He contends the wage can be raised without a detrimental impact on the business climate in Utah.
Candace Daly, state director for the National Federal of Independent Business, does not agree.
"We object to any increase in the mandatory minimum wage. Like most government mandates on business, raising the minimum wage will have a deep and disproportionate impact on the small-business sector. The last thing we need in Utah is a government mandate that could slow down the economy and create pressure on small businesses to find ways to avoid hiring people," Daly said.
Thirteen states raised the minimum wage on Jan. 1, with three western states, Oregon, Washington and California, raising the standard above $9 an hour. It doesn't stop there either. California has a ballot initiative this spring to potentially raise the state's minimum wage to $12 an hour. By contrast, the minimum wage in Wyoming is $5.25 an hour. Five states in the South have no minimum wage whatsoever.
Initiated in 1938, the minimum wage has initiated a debate over a living wage scale for families, versus the potential negative impact on business.
A website set up to look at the wage issue throughout the U.S., www.minimum-wage.org, claims a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage would take home approximately $15,080 a year before taxes. It said in 21 percent of U.S. households people earning the minimum wage are the sole breadwinners of their families.
By contrast the same site says raising the minimum wage damages the economy as a whole and leads to greater unemployment, especially among the youth in the U.S. They link an increase in the lowest wage scale possible to potential layoffs.