Minimum Wage Bill Advances in State Senate

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA / WGMB) - BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA Local 33/WGMB Fox 44) -- The Senate's latest push to forge a minimum wage is still alive. The chamber's labor committee voted 4-2 Wednesday to advance a wage hike to the full Senate.

Louisiana is currently one of five states without its own minimum wage. Instead the state has offered workers the federal rate of $7.25 an hour, as established in 2009. The bill, drafted by Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans), would create an $8 an hour rate for next year, then a $8.50 wage in 2019.

Supporters of the legislation argue the state's lack of pay standards is tantamount to discrimination.

"Our American system, however painful this may be, was to build this country on free labor," Sen. Carter told the Senate panel. "All these hundreds of years later, we're still not much further from free labor."

Opponents say increased wages could prompt layoffs. Dawn Starns, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, argues that more expenses -- chiefly taxes -- have cultivated unease that would only worsen with a minimum wage hike.

"The cost of doing business has gone up over the past three years in this state, so it makes it very difficult for a small business to keep its doors open," she said.

A similar wage proposal made it through a committee last year before meeting its demise. Hoping to salvage hopes for this bill, Governor John Bel Edwards voiced his support Wednesday in a statement.

"If we say that family values are critical to our way of life here in Louisiana, it's time to start valuing the hard-working families who contribute a great deal to our communities," wrote the Democratic governor, whose 2015 campaign included calls to raise wage standards.

The clout behind the governor's words remains uncertain, amid tensions with the Republican-led Senate, especially over economic matters.

 


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