The 2017 General Session of the Utah Legislature will begin on Monday. One of the bills put forward is a proposal to raise the minimum wage.
Lynn Hemingway’s (D-Millcreek) bill would raise the state minimum wage to $10.25 an hour. It also includes provisions for a 95-cent raise every year until 2023, when the minimum wage would reach $15 an hour. Hemingway says the current $7.25 an hour isn’t a livable wage.
“At $7.25 an hour, that’s $14,000 a year. Even a single person can’t live on that. If you have any kind of family, that means you have to work at least two jobs to get by,” Hemingway says.
Proposals for a minimum wage increase have appeared at the legislature for the past several years, but they never get very far due to Republican opposition.
Hemingway says many Republican lawmakers argue that raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses. But the Democratic representative looks at a wage increase as a local investment. He says minimum wage workers won’t be turning around and spending their money on stocks or bonds.
“They’re going to put this money into rent and groceries,” he says. “So there’s an investment there in the community and I think some of our business community doesn’t think it will work that way.
Utah’s minimum wage workers haven’t seen an increase since 2009, when the federal minimum wage rose to $7.25 an hour.