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