A committee in the Iowa House has voted to increase the state’s minimum wage by more than two dollars over the next eleven months. Democrats support the measure, but some Republicans oppose such a "steep" increase over such a "short" period.
The current minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. The bill approved in committee would hike the base wage rate up to $6.20 on April 1st. It would go up to $7.25 an hour on January 1st. Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines, says that’s a reasonable time frame after nine years without an increase in the minimum wage.
"The price of homes are going up. The price of gas is going up. God, our own salary (as a member of the legislature) went up," Hunter says. "The one thing that’s not going up is (the) minimum wage." But Representative Ralph Watts, a Republican from Adel, says adopting a 40 percent pay hike so quickly will strip away all profits for small businesses in rural Iowa."You say ‘Good news, we’ve raised the minimum wage," Watts says. "’The bad news is you don’t have a job anymore.’"
Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says raising the minimum wage will put more money into the Iowa economy. "I think we forget about that," Mascher says. "…We think, well, this is just going to hurt businesses. I think businesses also have to realize this could put more money in their pockets because more people will be able to afford those things that maybe they can’t now." The full House will debate the bill next week.
Republicans intend to offer an amendment to the bill that would phase in the increase over a longer period of time. There’s a move in the U.S. congress, too, to increase the minimum wage nationwide — to that same $7.25 level.