Minimum wage hike hearing postponed


DOVER — A bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.25 per hour and then tie it to the federal cost of living adjustment will not be heard in committee until next year.

Introduced in March following recommendations from a task force created to analyze low-wage workers, Senate Bill 39 would bump the wage floor up 50 cents per year for four years.

Starting in 2019, the minimum wage would then grow with the adjustment, which is set under the Social Security Act.

Traditionally, raising the minimum wage has been a Democratic issue. In this case, all 18 sponsors are members of the Democratic majority and opposition come from across the aisle.

Jack Markell

Jack Markell

Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, signed into law a bill making Delaware’s minimum wage $8.25 but has been reticent about his feelings on this particular proposal.

Businesses have spoken out against the bill, urging the government to keep its hands off the private sector and let the market determine the wages needed to attract employees.

In particular, opponents have seized on the fact that Delaware’s minimum wage is still in flux. Senate Bill 6, introduced in 2013 and made law a year later, raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $7.75 on June 1, 2014. That will then jump to $8.25 on June 1 this year.

Organizations such as the Delaware Restaurant Association, State Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business partnered together to fight the proposed hike. They say thousands of jobs could be lost if the bill passes.

“This is an issue that again I think is overreaching,” Carrie Leishman, president of the Delaware Restaurant Association, said in March.

She had been among those arguing the state should wait to see what the the impact of the $8.25 wage will be.

The minimum wage is generally paid to those entering the workforce -— teenagers working a summer or part-time job, or homemakers getting back into the workforce in low-skill jobs.

Republican opponents to a government-mandated boost in the minimum wage say a higher hourly rate will lead to more expensive goods as businesses will need to raise prices to cover the added expense; those backing the bill claim an increase is needed to help people make ends meet.

“Every little bit counts,” Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington, said in January when the recommendations were released.

Marshall, the main sponsor of the bill, said he plans to wait for a committee hearing until after the increase goes into effect.

The General Assembly goes on break July 1, and once it resumes in January, Sen. Marshall plans to push for a hearing. He figures the $8.25 level will have been in practice for more than six months and businesses can no longer oppose it on the grounds of uncertainty.

Senate Bill 39 is in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Sen. Marshall is its chairman.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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