Capitol Alert

Mark Leno will try again to hike California’s minimum wage

Senate leader Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, in 2011.
Senate leader Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, in 2011.

After announcing over the weekend that he will not run for mayor of San Francisco next year, Sen. Mark Leno began the new legislative session Monday with a proposal to increase California’s minimum wage to $11 in 2016 and $13 in 2017.

The bill by Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, also calls for increasing the minimum wage annually, indexed to inflation, beginning in 2019. It’s similar to a bill Leno carried last year that died in an Assembly committee. In re-introducing the concept, Leno is touting recent votes to increase the minimum wage in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota – politically conservative states – as well as the liberal California cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Voters approved a $15 minimum wage in San Francisco and a $12.25 minimum wage in Oakland. Sacramento is convening a task force next year to examine whether wages should go up here.

“Hard-working, full-time employees across California are forced to live in poverty and rely on public assistance just to put food on the table for their families,” Leno said in a statement. “This income inequality crisis, which disproportionately impacts women and children, is detrimental to our communities and the economy. It is time to accelerate the minimum wage and give low-income workers the respect they deserve for a job well done.”

Business groups opposed Leno’s minimum wage bill last year, and generally oppose attempts to automatically adjust wage increases. Two years ago, they lost a fight to increase minimum wages statewide but won a concession in negotiations that removed an automatic cost-of-living escalator from Assembly Bill 10. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in 2013, increasing California’s minimum wage from $8 to $9 this year and up to $10 in 2016. But in rejecting Leno’s wage increase bill last year, some Democrats argued that they didn’t want to violate agreements they’d made with business leaders to exclude automatic inflation-adjusted increases.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.

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