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Politics & Government

Minimum wage hike bill left in limbo

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Delaware Public Media
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A bill looking to raise Delaware’s minimum wage couldn’t budge enough state lawmakers in a House committee Wednesday.

 

 

The proposal would hike the state’s minimum wage to $10.25 an hour by the year 2020, with 50 cent increases in each of the next four years.

 

The 10-member House Economic Development Committee was split fairly evenly during the hour and a half debate, with lobbyists, business owners and others crowding the hearing room.

 

Rep. Trey Paradee (D-Dover West) says raising the wage floor could end up saving the state money.          

 

“Low wage workers today, including those who make minimum wage or just above, qualify for such benefits as food stamp benefits or SNAP benefits, Medicaid and other government programs," said Paradee. "So the Delaware taxpayer is subsidizing these businesses.”

 
But business interests, including state Chamber of Commerce lobbyist James DeChene, railed against the bill.

DeChene says it would squeeze main street store owners, resulting in layoffs to cover the increasing payroll costs while creating a barrier for younger people looking for a job.

"When you look at something like this, you’re starting to price out the very people you want to have to learn the soft skills of their first job that will carry them forward into their next job and that’s really the age of 16 to 24,” he said.

“At some point, we're going to create an overwhelming incentive [for business owners] to get rid of their current employees and switch to something like this,” said Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R-Clayton), pointing to an automated terminal where customers can order meals or tally up their grocery bill without an employee's help.

The bill narrowly passed in the Senate in January by an 11-8 vote after chief sponsor Sen. Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West) amended out a provision linking Delaware's minimum wage with the Consumer Price Index so it will keep up with inflation.

It was withdrawn from consideration towards the end of the hearing, with those opposing the bill saying they're willing to work on the proposal with Marshall in the coming months.

Committee chair Rep. Bryon Short (D-Brandywine Hundred), who supports the measure, says he thinks there's enough time to still get it passed in a way that benefits everyone.

"I think it's important for us as public policy makers to recognize that economies change and take steps to makes sure that people don't get left out," Short said.

Should the bill fail to move out of the committee by June 30, it will need to restart it's legislative journey next year.

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