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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Update: Senate committee gives minimum wage earners get 4-cent increase but labor says it's bad deal



Florida’s minimum wage workers would get a short-term boost but, potentially a long-term hit, under a bill passed by the Senate Budget Committee Tuesday.

The bill, by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has the backing of Florida’s business lobby. It sets the rule on how the state’s labor department, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, should calculate the minimum wage based on the constitutional amendment that requires the state to set a statewide minimum wage.

Detert and supporters say that the bill calculating rate for setting the minimum wage prevents the minimum wage from going down and will allow the agency to set the rate based on the highest of three calculations.

Under the measure, the state’s minimum wage would be set at $7.25 an hour, based on the federal formula, instead of the current $7.21, she said.

Update: The bill would allow the rate to remain at $7.25 per hour, unless the Adjusted Real Wage becomes higher. (The Adjusted Real Wage is a complicated formula used by the state that relies on a 2005 base rate of $6.15, the Consumer Price Industry of urban wage earns and clerical workers in the South.) 

But opponents argued that the formula “results in depressing the minimum wage by 15 cents per year” because it fails to keep pace with the increasing cost of living. They argue that the cumulative cost to workers in Florida could $70 million a year.

“We fought to get it into the constitution and we need to abide by it,’’ said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “This bill will deny 20,000 workers in the state a pay raise that will only amount to $2.40 a week. There are thousands of minimum wage workers in Florida and Florida’s refusal to raise the minimum wage to keep pace with the rising cost of living is an aberration.’’

She said there are six states that have increased their minimum wage to account for rising costs of living but AWI has not, drawing a lawsuit from workers in Florida.

“People at the lower end of the scale tend to spend rather than put away additional earnings,’’ Joyner said. “That means their earnings go directly into Florida’s economy.”

Detert replied that “most of us do not agree there’s inflation” and she said that the increase to $7.25 is “about as fair as you can get in this world today.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 8:25pm]


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