Minimum wage debate restarts in Sacramento

In his State of the City speech Thursday night, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he wanted to put together a task force to look at raising the minimum wage in the capital city.

Currently, the city's minimum wage is the same as California's state minimum wage -- $9 per hour. In 2016, it will increase to $10 per hour. But some cities across the nation, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have sought higher minimum wages for their workers.

The proposal is already raising some eyebrows in the business community. Ahead of the mayor's speech, the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce distributed a survey to its members asking for their input on a city-wide minimum wage increase.

"Any increase in the minimum wage will affect businesses, especially if it's targeted at just one area of our region. It really does put sand in the gears and say one city is going to be anti-competitive in the sense that they're going to have to charge higher wages if you're in the city boundaries of Sacramento, versus the county, versus other cities in the region," Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Peter Tateishi said. "We just don't think that's a smart proposal right now, if it were to go forward."

Tateishi added he's already heard from some Chamber of Commerce members who have voiced concern about a minimum wage increase.

"We had one member who actually wrote in saying that just increasing one dollar would take away 50 percent of his profits because of the way that they operate and the number of entry level positions that they have," Tateishi said.

But others say that low-income workers really do need the raise.

"In 1968 in today's prices, the minimum wage was about $10 an hour. And now nationally it's $7.25, though it's higher here in California [at $9]," UC Davis Center for Poverty Research Director Ann Huff Stevens explained. In the meantime, essentials like food, housing and health care have increased in cost, meaning that today's minimum-wage worker can afford less than he could decades earlier.

Even though some leaders in the business community may be critical of a minimum wage raise, not all business owners feel the same. At Andy's Candy Apothecary, owner Andy Paul said his five employees all make above the minimum wage. He said a wage hike would be good for the city and its residents.

"I think I look around at other cities where there's just a huge division … you have people driving in from like an hour away because they can't afford to live in the city. And we really want this city to become a thriving place where everybody can live," Paul said.


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