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State senate vote on minimum wage hike delayed

Delaware Public Media

State senators held off on voting on a bill Tuesday that would raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $10.25 an hour by 2020 after it was unclear it could garner the 11 votes needed to pass. 

The move came after nearly an hour and a half of debate that stretched into the early evening.

Chief sponsor Sen. Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West) says he thought he had the votes to pass it this afternoon, but that confidence wavered as the debate went on.

“The public debate may have an impact and apparently raise enough concern that I’d rather take the time and have a higher level of confidence that there are 11 votes to get the bill passed," Marshall said.

Farmers and those owning ag businesses from around Delaware testified at length as to how

Steve McCarron, a manager for Kenny Brothers Produce in Bridgeville, says his company wouldn’t be able to absorb that big of a payroll hit should the bill pass.

He says international competitors using cheaper labor undercut his sales.

“While we are debating raising the cost of the least skilled workers that we need, there are salesmen in offices across this nation selling products produced with labor that costs 10 cents on our dollar,” McCarron said.

Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North) posed several questions to farmers, asking them about yearly fluctuations in the price of their equipment or supplies.

He asked why should they expect to pay employees the same wages each year, despite inflation eroding their purchasing power.

“Why should you freeze the one thing that is needed by human beings that comes out of your operation? The wages, the salaries.”

Some also cited a cost of living adjustment provision, which would tie the state's lowest legal wage to inflation, as over burdensome, since elected officials wouldn't get to vote on the issue.

Before debate, Marshall struck an amendment he filed late last year that would’ve boosted the minimum wage level in the bill to more than $15 an hour, saying he didn’t have enough support for it.

Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South), who’s running for governor this year, also put forward an amendment to name the legislation the “Delaware Job Killing Act of 2016” but that quickly failed.

The proposal’s future is unclear should it pass the Senate.

Gov. Jack Markell (D) won’t say whether he’d sign the bill and Rep. Bryon Short (D-Brandywine Hundred), who chairs the House Economic Development Committee and is running for Delaware's lone congressional seat this year, didn’t respond to a text message asking if he’d support it either.

Debate continues Wednesday.

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