Flagged Bill: HB 147 – Living Wage Amendments – Rep. Lynn Hemingway

Representative Lynn Hemingway (Democrat – Millcreek)

Representative Lynn Hemingway has renewed his pledge to fight to raise the minimum wage for the 2017 session; it was an issue he took on in 2014, and again last year after returning to his seat after a hiatus.Each year, Hemingway has tweaked his legislation and has made ever-so-slight progress each year…and it is slight. In 2014 Hemingway proposed a flat $10.25 an hour minimum wage – that bill died unceremoniously sent to rules on a committee vote of 9-0. Last year Hemingway was more aggressive, proposing a $12.00 an hour minimum wage, however, he apparently made a more convincing case…since the bill died slightly less unceremoniously as it was sent to rules on a committee vote of 8-3.

In a state that values hard work so much that it literally has “industry” as its motto, it seems odd that lawmakers are okay with the idea that someone willing to work 40 plus hours a week should still languish in poverty. Yes, lawmakers should look out for the wellbeing of the economy, but we must not forget that an economy is made up of people, and those people have a right to be able to function in it if they provide the sweat of their brow. 

This year, Hemingway is taking a more nuanced approach with HB 147 – Living Wage Amendments.

With HB 147, Hemingway is proposing a more phased-in approach to increasing the minimum wage. Under the proposal, the minimum wage would rise to $10.25 on July 1, 2017; $11.20 on July 1, 2018; $12.15 on July 1, 2019; $13.10 on July 1, 2020; $14.05 on July 1, 2021; and finally landing on $15.00 an hour on July 1, 2022. Furthermore, Hemingway’s legislation would up the tipped employee wage to $5.00 an hour.

As we have noted in the past, opponents of raising the minimum wage argue that the floor on wages harms the market by creating an artificial constraint that prevents hiring at full employment. Supporters of the minimum wage argue that if a person is willing to put in a day’s worth of labor, they should not be forced to live in poverty.

What has changed over the past few years is that we have seen some states and communities actually raise the minimum wage have started to see the ramifications of such a policy shift. Last year, opponents vocally criticized Seattle and its “disastrous” effects on the local economy – however, it appears that that assessment was, at best, temporary.

According to a study from the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance the results were not as dire as the nay-sayers predicted and the benefits were not as strong as supporters touted. To quote the study “The typical worker earning under $11/hour (the new minimum wage set by Seattle)…earned $11.14 per hour by the end of 2014, an increase from $9.96 an hour at the time of passage.” This was attributed both to the wage increase itself as well as the overall stronger economy. It added that low-wage workers saw a $13 more per week while working, on average 15 minutes less – this comes at the response that employers did cut back hours (four hours per quarter) to compensate for the policy change.

The study would summarize that ” Seattle’s experience shows that the City’s low-wage workers did relatively well after the minimum wage increased, but largely because of the strong regional economy. Seattle’s low-wage workers would have experienced almost equally positive trends if the minimum wage had not increased. Although the minimum wage clearly increased wages for this group, offsetting effects on low-wage worker hours and employment muted the impact on labor earnings.”

The report would also add that the impact of the ordinance caused an estimated 0.7 percent increase in current business closures…however, it is also estimated that the ordinance increased new businesses openings at a rate of 0.9 percent – a net increase in overall business of 0.2 percent.

So, it appears that Hemingway is proposing an even more gradual policy proposal that not only helps low-income workers (the vast majority of which are over the age of 18) and has little to no effect on the overall economy (perhaps even improving it slightly). Of course, this is just one example, however, the doomsayers have raised warning flags every time the minimum wage discussion has taken place across the country, and time and time again they are proven wrong. Ultimately, in a state that values hard work so much that it literally has “industry” as its motto, it seems odd that lawmakers are okay with the idea that someone willing to work 40 plus hours a week should still languish in poverty. Furthermore, this same group of lawmakers professes that everything should be done for the children, yet they appear okay with allowing thousands of real kids live harsher lives because of the false fear that it may harm some business. Yes, lawmakers should look out for the wellbeing of the economy, but we must not forget that an economy is made up of people, and those people have a right to be able to function in it if they provide the sweat of their brow.

To contact Representative Hemingway, click here or call 801-231-2153 (Cell).

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 2
Need for Legislation 5
Lemon Score 0
Overall Grade A+

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