Jerry Brown, lawmakers poised to hike California’s minimum wage to $10

Published: Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 - 6:30 am

A bill to raise the minimum wage in California to $10 an hour raced forward at the Capitol on Wednesday, with Democratic lawmakers poised to approve the measure and Gov. Jerry Brown announcing he would sign it.

The increase in the state’s minimum wage from $8 to $10 by 2016 would be the first since 2008, when it was raised by 50 cents to $8.

“The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.”

The Democratic governor’s announcement came after Assembly Bill 10, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, was amended Wednesday to raise the minimum hourly wage to $10 sooner than previously proposed. The bill is moving through the Legislature as lawmakers near the end of session this week.

The measure would raise the minimum hourly wage from $8 to $9 on July 1, 2014, and then to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016. Under an earlier version of the bill, the minimum hourly wage would not have reached $10 until 2018.

Brown was joined by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, in announcing support for the bill.

“For millions of California’s hardworking minimum wage employees, a few extra dollars a week can make a huge difference to help them provide for their families,” Steinberg said in a statement.

With Brown and the Democratic leaders of both houses supportive of the measure, Republicans and business groups appeared to have little chance of blocking it.

“You’ve got the governor sending more than just smoke signals and everybody seems to be singing Kumbaya,” said Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. “So I think it’s pretty much a done deal.”

Huff said the economy is “really tough on businesses right now” and that raising the minimum wage would reduce available jobs.

The measure is opposed by business interests, including grocers, retailers and chambers of commerce. The California Chamber of Commerce has included the bill in its annual list of “job killers,” saying it would unfairly increase costs on employers, and the chamber and other business groups urged lawmakers to oppose the measure in a memorandum Wednesday.

The groups said the proposed increase is “far worse than any predicted rate of inflation” and that “such a significant increase in the minimum wage may jeopardize any economic recovery California is enjoying.”

Alejo said the bill is a “modest measure,” noting that he agreed to remove an automatic cost-of-living escalator.

“We should have a statewide minimum wage that’s fair, that’s reasonable and that gives workers the dignity of at least being able to pay their bills and provide for their families with their minimum wage salary,” he said.

Brown’s wading in on the minimum wage issue marked one of three times in two days he commented on pending action in the Legislature, a rarity for the governor. On Tuesday, Brown announced his opposition to a measure to rename part of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, and later Wednesday his office said Brown would sign a pending bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

On the minimum wage, at least, the signal from Brown was significant. Brown’s own Department of Finance opposed the bill in an analysis of the legislation in June, citing “significant costs to the General Fund.”

Under an earlier version of the legislation, in which wage adjustments were stepped up in smaller increments, the administration estimated the cost to the state of at least $33.7 million next budget year.

The broader effects of a minimum wage increase are debated by economists. According to a legislative analysis, most minimum wage earners would spend more on goods and services if they receive a raise, increasing economic activity, while employers who are required to pay higher wages may seek to offset increased costs by raising prices, hiring fewer workers, or reducing workers’ hours.

California is one of many states with minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage in the Golden State currently lags behind such states as Illinois, Oregon and Washington, but exceeds the hourly minimum in such states as Ohio, Arizona and Colorado, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders. Laurel Rosenhall and Jeremy B. White of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Read more articles by David Siders

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