As more states set aggressive hikes in minimum wages, Florida pay starts to lag

The Fight for $15 campaign hosted a rally outside of St. Petersburg City Hall in November, calling for a hike in minimum wage. 
The Fight for $15 campaign hosted a rally outside of St. Petersburg City Hall in November, calling for a hike in minimum wage. [SARA DINATALE | Times]
Published January 10 2017
Updated January 11 2017

Florida's long been branded a low-wage state. Now it may soon become known as a low-minimum-wage state, too.

That's apparent when Florida is compared to 28 other states whose minimum wages are higher than the $7.25 an hour minimum wage set by the federal government. That's what the remaining 21 states without minimum wage laws must pay.

Many states that set their own minimum wages are starting to raise them, sometimes aggressively. And that means Florida, which raised its minimum wage for 2017 this week by all of a nickel to $8.10 from $8.05 in 2016, increasingly finds itself on the lower end of the minimum wage scale.

It will fall further behind.

Florida is one of a record 19 states raising their minimum wage for 2017. Some states raised their minimum wage via ballot initiatives. Others, like Florida, saw wages rise to reflect inflation adjustments.

Nationally, about 4.3 million low-wage workers will receive a raise. In Florida's case, the paltry 5-cent hourly increase translates to an additional $104 annual increase in income for its full-time minimum wage workers.

In contrast, minimum wage hikes in such states as Arizona, Washington, Maine and Colorado, among others, are significantly outpacing what is happening in Florida.

Arizona led all states this year, raising its minimum wage $1.95 to $10 an hour. Seven states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, New York, Oregon and Washington) will raise their minimum wages to between $12 and $15 per hour, to be phased in over several years.

Florida's lagging on wages is more apparent when the latest increases are annualized. Florida employees lucky enough to be paid for a full 40 hours a week for 52 weeks would earn $16,848 this year, while minimum wage workers in Arizona would earn $20,800 — nearly $4,000 more in 2017.

The debate over minimum wage goes like this: Any minimum wage limits the ability of business to compete and hire more workers, especially those seeking their first jobs.

Others argue the current Florida minimum wage does not come close to providing a living wage. In the Sunshine State alone, 187,000 workers are paid the minimum wage, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The average minimum wage among states above $7.25 is currently $8.90. That means Florida minimum wage workers now making $8.10 are being paid on average 9 percent less than their counterparts in states that have adopted minimum wages above $7.25.

By November 2020, as more planned increases go into effect, the average minimum wage in states above the federal level will reach $10.63. Barring sharp hikes ahead in inflation adjustments in Florida, that will leave minimum wage workers in this state even further behind.

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