Democratic Lawmaker Says State Money Would be Better Spent on Raising Minimum Wage Instead of Land Grab

Utah State Capitol 17Should Utah boost the minimum wage to $12 an hour?

 
Democratic Rep. Lynn Hemingway thinks so. He says the current federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour just isn’t cutting it.
 
“To obtain a two bedroom apartment at $7.25 an hour, you have to work 83 hours in a week at the average cost,” he says. “One of the biggest problems we have is single parents trying to raise a family on $7.25. They have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.”
 
Hemingway says most of the people in Utah who earn minimum wage are over the age of 20 years old, which blunts the assertion that a hike would only benefit teenagers and “burger flippers.” He says it’s time the state starts helping people at the tail end of the economic spectrum.
 
“The people who are at the lower end of the economic scale are not going to buy Rocky Mountain Power stock. They’re gonna go to the grocery store or be able to buy gas for their car. None of this is for things that people don’t need. This is a need. It’s not a giveaway.”
 
Hemingway’s HB195 carries a hefty $26 million fiscal note because of the state workers who would get a raise under the legislation. He says those low wages are a problem and contribute to a “brain drain” in Utah government.
 
“I had an email from a person who works for the state saying in their department they have masters degrees and Ph.D.’s, and we’re making 17 to 20 dollars an hour. And you wonder why the state can’t keep people.”
 
Critics will counter that raising the minimum wage hurts small businesses by forcing them to pay workers more. Hemingway isn’t buying it.
 
“One of the credible arguments for raising the minimum wage is that Wal-Mart raised their wages to $9 an hour. When someone as tough as Wal-Mart raises their wages, it’s pretty evident that something needs to happen.”
 
Hemingway says that $26 million fiscal note really doesn’t bother him, especially since his Republican colleagues seem ready to spend $14 million to pick a legal fight with the federal government over public lands.
 
“To me, that’s a pure giveaway and the money is going out of state. Give me another $12 million (to fund his bill) and we’ll make people enjoy living and working in Utah.”
 
HB195 is still in the House Rules Committee.