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Raising the minimum wage in Texas

It’s all the rage elsewhere, but so far I’ve not heard anything about a movement to raise the minimum wage in Texas.

While most of the increases amount to less than 15 cents per hour, workers in places like New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island will see a bigger bump.

Earlier this year, New Jersey residents voted to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 to $8.25 per hour. And lawmakers voted to hike the wage by between 25 cents and 75 cents per hour, to $8.70 in Connecticut and $8 in Rhode Island and New York.

Residents in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington will see a higher wage floor due to annual cost of living adjustments.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, used Census data to estimate that the increases will boost the incomes of 2.5 million low-wage American workers next year.

Currently, 19 states have minimum wages set higher than the federal level of $7.25 per hour. Once the changes take effect on Jan. 1, the number rises to 21.

[…]

President Obama has been throwing his weight behind the issue. Earlier this month, the President said in a speech that it’s “well past the time to raise the minimum wage that in real terms right now is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office.”

But such legislation has a bleaker outlook if it reaches the Republican-led House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner has said that raising the minimum wage leads to a pullback in hiring.

Several recent polls, however, show that the vast majority of Americans are in favor of a federal minimum wage hike. A new ABC/Washington Post poll out last week shows that two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage. More than one-third of respondents said they supported an increase to $9 per hour, while a quarter more were in favor of a boost to $10.

CBS poll conducted last month found nearly identical results.

For obvious reasons, I don’t expect anything to happen in Texas, even as it is an issue nationally. What I would like to see is for it to at least be in the conversation. I got that link from Sen. Rodney Ellis’ Facebook page, so that’s a start. I’m sure that when the issue does arise, we will hear a cacaphony of caterwauling about how increasing the minimum wage will destroy jobs and only go to the benefit of teenagers. Putting aside the fact that all of that is a load of bull, I welcome the debate. Let’s talk about how many of the jobs that have been created during Rick Perry’s reign have been crappy, minimum wage jobs. Let’s talk about what we need to do to ensure that Texas is creating quality jobs that pay living wages. Let’s talk about the millions of Texans who work fulltime yet live in poverty because their jobs pay so little. One ironic benefit of raising the minimum wage in Texas is that it might make a whole bunch of people that now fall into what Ed Kilgore calls the “wingnut hole” – not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in a state like Texas that refused to expand it but below the minimum income level to qualify for insurance exchange subsidies, precisely because they were supposed to get enrolled in Medicaid – might suddenly qualify for insurance subsidies and get coverage, possibly for the first time in their adult lives. I’ll be delighted to talk about that. Raising the minimum wage polls well nationally, including among Republicans, though I haven’t seen (and couldn’t find) any Texas-specific polling on the subject. Regardless, this is an issue that Democrats need to engage on, and it’s one I think they can gain on. But we’ve got to start talking about it first. Texas Leftist has more.

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