Louisiana legislators have refused for the last four years to create a minimum wage higher than the federal wage of $7.25 per hour. Now, the U.S. House is going to consider increasing the federal wage to $15 per hour.
It's unlikely an increase that large can pass muster, but it appears a higher wage of some amount may be possible. Some perennial opponents of increasing the minimum wage are indicating a compromise may be possible.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has promised to raise the minimum wage and defends the $15 proposal. She said it would increase wages for up to 27 million Americans and lift 1.3 million people out of poverty, including 600,000 children.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in an analysis said $15 would increase the pay of millions of workers, but it could also trigger an estimated 1 million job losses. However, some say the losses could be as high as 3.7 million.
Two of Louisiana's House members have different views on the issue, according to a report in The Advocate. U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said he is firmly opposed to the idea. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, who is running against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, said he would be open to debate.
Scalise said, "Why don't we celebrate that the economy is growing and do more things to help grow the economy instead of pass bills that have been proven to kill jobs in America?"
Abraham said, "We'll see what happens as this discussion goes on. Fifteen dollars is not workable — it just puts people out of business."
The newspaper said Edwards' argument has been that 29 other states, including some of Louisiana's neighbors, have minimum wage levels higher than the federal rate. Eighteen states began 2019 with minimum wage increases. Arkansas approved an $11 per hour minimum wage with a ballot initiative supported by 68 percent of its voters.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said it is willing to work on a minimum wage hike, but not the full $15 per hour that some Democrats want.
Neil Bradley, the chamber's executive vice president and chief policy officer, said there is a reasonable approach that members and the business community can come together on. Double digits are not out of the question, Bradley said, if other pro-business measures are combined with the wage increase.
Even if a higher federal minimum wage makes it through the House, any increase could have tough going in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Public sentiment, which seems to favor a higher wage, could play a role in the final outcome.