Historic minimum wage measure passes California Assembly – Los Angeles Times
California’s minimum wage increase to $15 an hour over the next six years passed its most critical legislative test Thursday morning, with the state Assembly approving the deal, sending it on a path to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk by the end of the day.
The plan passed 48 to 26, receiving broad support from Democratic lawmakers who called the compromise effort an important step forward for California. No Republicans voted in favor of the increase. Opponents complained it was rushed and did not include a wide group at the negotiating table.
Just two Assembly Democrats voted against the deal: Tom Daly of Anaheim and Adam Gray of Merced. During what at times was an emotional debate, opponents advocated for a regional approach out of concern for small businesses.
The measure now moves immediately to the state Senate, where it’s expected to pass easily later Thursday.
The swift approval puts California at the forefront of efforts from liberals and labor groups nationwide to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The action caps a whirlwind week in the Capitol. Brown formally unveiled the plan Monday, and it could be ready for his signature just three days later.
Under the plan, the state’s hourly minimum wage would increase from the current $10 to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, then to $11 the following year, and increase by $1 annually until 2022. Businesses with fewer than 26 employees would get an additional year to comply, and Brown and his successors could delay the increases by one year in the case of an economic downturn. Assuming no pauses, the minimum wage would increase each year based on inflation starting in 2024.
Economists have estimated the measure would increase the pay of 5.6 million workers across the state — nearly 1 in 3.
The package is less aggressive than two labor-sponsored ballot measures that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour more quickly. The leverage created by the ballot measures spurred Brown, who previously had been hostile to raising the wage beyond its current levels, to make a deal.
Still, Republicans and major business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and California Restaurant Assn., warned that the package raised the wage far too much and far too fast. During the Assembly vote, GOP lawmakers repeatedly raised the specter of job losses and increased automation by forcing businesses large and small to increase the wage to levels not seen in any other state.
Aside from affecting low-wage workers, the deal will have broad consequences on all sectors of the economy and the state budget. The state Department of Finance has estimated that the wage increase would cost the state $3.6 billion annually by 2023, primarily from a pay boost for in-home healthcare workers in the public sector.
Beyond that, the wage hike also will increase the pay of workers whose salaries are tied to the minimum wage. For instance, teachers and other workers who are exempt from state overtime rules must be paid at least double the minimum wage or receive overtime.
Throughout the week, members of a group of business-aligned Democrats expressed reservations about the plan’s far reach.
Their opinion was countered by numerous Democrats in the majority who argued it was a measure of economic fairness that puts the state ahead of the nation.