Minimum Wage Debate - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Minimum Wage Debate

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Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers.  Now, President Obama is calling on Congress and the Senate to raise minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for all employees.

Currently there are 21 states and Washington D.C. that have a minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.  There were 13 states that raised their minimum wage at the start of the new year.  U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas said that raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy.

"Part of the problem with the government setting wages is that if you set wages at a high enough point, then it discourages businesses from hiring more people.  In fact they may lay people off," said Cornyn.

U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas's 13th District is also against raising the minimum wage.  

"Every time the minimum wage goes up more and more people lose their jobs.  Especially the small businesses, they can not afford to hire as many people when they have to pay their other employees more," said Thornberry.

According to a 2013 U.S. Congressional report, there are 3.6-million people earning at or below the federal minimum wage.  Of those 3.6-million, 24.1 percent are teenagers, 36 percent work full-time, and 64 percent are females.

As of January 1st, 2014 there are a total of 21 states and Washington D.C. that have a minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 an hour.  John Richie of the Wichita County Democrats said Texas should increase the states minimum wage.  Richie believes an increase in the minimum wage would actually boost the economy.

 "I've heard about raising the minimum wage from talking to people, visiting with folks, even small business owners as well as folks who work for a living.  They say, if I had a little more money, maybe I could spend a little more money," said Richie.

The 2013 Congressional also said a parent with two children who earns the federal minimum wage lives at 76 percent of the poverty line.  If the federal wage was increased to $9.00 an hour, that family could live at 94 percent of the poverty line.  Thornberry said a raise to the minimum wage will benefit workers, but also thinks it could hurt workers independence.

"You're putting them off to government dependency, perhaps for the rest of their lives," said Thornberry.

Cornyn said the government needs to play a role in helping workers acquire higher valued skills instead of just helping them get a higher paycheck.

"The most important role for the federal government is not trying to micro-manage how much employers pay their employees, I think the market does a good job at that.  I think the federal government does have a role by helping train people and helping them acquire skills, whereby they can earn far more than the minimum wage," said Cornyn.

Richie argues that a minimum wage should be a livable wage.

"You should go up there and try to help the minimum wage go up, because you gave us these jobs.  Let's give them something to live off of, period.  I don't know how else to put it."

There are currently four active bills both the U.S. House and Senate that call for a raise to the minimum wage.

Jack Carney, Newschannel 6