By BRIAN BLAI
While Democrats battle with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to force a vote on raising the minimum wage, Utah politicians have expressed mixed feelings on the outcome.
Many Washington Democrats favor an increase in the minimum wage, outlining a proposal that would boost it from the current $4.25 an hour to $5.15 an hour in two equal 45-cent steps over the next two years.
Many Utah legislators agree that an increase would benefit the state, but they are unsure just how high the rate should go and how quickly it should be implemented.
“I think it’s a start in the right direction and I think we need to go in small increments in order to get it through Congress, if we try to go too fast too soon, we may get nothing,” said Brent H. Goodfellow, D-Utah. “But I think if we go in small increments for a period of time, and maybe a couple of increments in a year or two, a couple of increments, I think we are headed in the right direction.”
Goodfellow said the increase to $5.15 was a good beginning, but ultimately it should be higher.
A. Lamont Tyler, R-Utah, said, “I think by-and-large that running the minimum wage up too much tends to decrease the number of opportunities for people at the low end of the pay scale to be employed.
“You have a very hard time hiring people with the amount now, so I think raising it isn’t going to make that much of a difference. You don’t hire anyone at minimum wage anymore and so you might as well raise it up to where we are hiring people,” said Afton Bradshaw, R-Utah.
“Mrs. Waldholtz has long opposed increasing minimum wage, she, like many others in this country and most economists believe that increasing the minimum wage is a job killer,” said Michael Levy, senior legislative aid to Enid Waldholtz.
“You will force businesses to pay employees more and will be forced to cut back on the number of employees they have. Small businesses can’t afford that, small businesses are the job creating engines in this economy, and have been for decades. Put that kind of burden on them and it changes their ability to hire and you are going to have a higher rate of unemployment. The choice comes down to having a job or not having a job,” Levy said.
Unfortunately an increase in federal minimum wage would not likely affect the BYU minimum of $5.40 and hour, according to Blair Condie, acting assistant administrative vice president of Human Resource Services at BYU.
“Ours (minimum wage) is not directly connected to that … anything we do above and beyond that is our prerogative,” Condie said.