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State lawmakers pass $15 hour minimum wage

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s minimum wage will go up to $15 per hour over the next few years.


Some Delaware lawmakers have tried for years to lift the minimum wage to $15 per hour. They succeeded Thursday evening when the House passed Senate Bill 15. It now goes to Gov. John Carney, who is expected to to sign it.


“We’ve done things incrementally, but we’ve never really got to the top of the mountain so to speak and we did today — and we met with the governor back in December and asked him his particulars, and the bill that you see today is what he agreed to so I don’t anticipate any impediments between here and the governor’s signature,” said the bill's prime sponsor, State Rep. Gerald Brady (D-Northwest Wilmington).


The measure will raise the minimum wage gradually, starting this January 1st. It will reach $15 per hour in 2025.


Republican lawmakers raised concerns the increase will hurt small businesses, but prime sponsor State Sen. Jack Walsh (D-Ogletown) says it benefits businesses in the end.


“So I did my due diligence with the businesses in the state and while some aren’t happy at this time I believe the process was better and I’m happy to- I think we have a pretty good minimum wage bill that benefits all Delaware workers — and also will help our businesses recruit and retain workers,” Walsh said.


All of the amendments filed to delay or reduce the impact of the minimum wage increases failed. Six were from GOP lawmakers.  


One from Democratic State Rep. Sherae’a Moore delaying the increases for small businesses by one extra year garnered no Democratic votes.


State Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford) was particularly frustrated with the bill, and his failed amendment, calling for the Controller General’s office to create annual reports on the impacts of minimum wage increases.


He says this bill was only political, and Democratic lawmakers didn’t take any statistics or facts into account. Shupe had previously introduced a bill that failed that would have also called for a report on the impacts of minimum wage increases.


Brady says facts were at the core of this legislation, and says a report on the impacts the bill would have were part of the fiscal note attached to the bill.


He says Shupe’s characterization was also political.


“Statistics are, in many cases and in cases like this, are what you make them — or what source you derive them from,” Brady said. “So if you want different outcomes you just go to another source pool and you will therefore substantiate your claim.”


Walsh says Shupe’s amendments were just another attempt to delay the minimum wage increase in the state.


State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) also raised concern the increase would put a higher burden on school districts, who may need hold more referendums to pay for wage increases.


Walsh says in negotiations with the governor, wage increases for public schools were part of the budget this year, anticipating the passage of this bill.


Despite Thursday's successful vote, Brady says the minimum wage fight is not over. He expects another minimum wage increase to come up in the next few years, and would still like to see a permanent increase tied to the consumer price index.


Brady says permanent increases were stripped out of this bill as a concession to get the support of Gov. Carney, who opposes such increases.



Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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