Governor Brown Backs Bill to Raise California’s Minimum Wage

Attorney General Jerry Brown

Attorney General Jerry Brown

The gap between the very rich and the working poor is getting worse and not better, so California Governor Jerry Brown has come out in support of a new bill that would increase California’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by January 2016.

According to today’s Los Angeles Times, Brown believes that wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of living.  Those working minimum wage jobs today could be working full time yet living under poverty standards.  From the story:

The governor and labor union leaders said the increase is needed, given that the last hike — of 50 cents an hour to $8 — took effect at the start of 2008.

“The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs,” the governor said in a statement Wednesday as lobbyists from both sides worked the 40 Senate members. “This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.”

The bill, which must win final passage in the Legislature before a Friday recess, would raise the rate to $9 in July 2014 and $10 an hour 18 months later.

Employers, including retailers, fast-food franchisees and farmers, denounced the proposal as too much, too fast.

Brown typically has refused to disclose his views on pending legislation, so his statement is seen as a key signal that he wants the bill passed as soon as possible. Leaders of the Senate and the Assembly joined in his statement urging lawmakers to pass the bill.

Of course, this bill was denounced by the fast food industry and retailers, but there’s an old adage that everyone does better when everyone does better.  I expect the old carnard about how raising the minimum wage will cause businesses to raise prices or cut workers.  It might bite into profits, but historically none of these things happen when the minimum wage was increased in the past.  The key to a strong economy is a strong middle class.  Giving low income earners more money to make it easier to pay for more advanced training and education is the key to a better educated workforce.