$10.00 an hour.
That’s what Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, is proposing Utah’s minimum wage be raised to. A raise that would send Utah to the top of the country in minimum wage pay, 68 cents more than the current leader, Washington state, pays at $9.32 an hour.
“People are making $1,200 dollars a month gross income and we expect them to live on that,” Dabakis said. “Raising the minimum wage isn’t going to hurt our society, and it isn’t going to hurt our culture and it certainly is not going to hurt our economy. It will make a dramatic impact on the lives of a lot of our people who are having the toughest time and working the hardest in a lot of ways.”
The debate on minimum wage has received increasing attention with President Barack Obama’s announcement that he would support a bill presented by Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Democratic House member George Miller from California, taking the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
According to Val Hale, president and CEO of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, the largest employers in Utah County are Brigham Young University, Intermountain Healthcare, Vivint, Utah Valley University and Alpine School District. A raise in minimum wage could potentially have a large impact across the BYU campus.
“A change in the minimum wage would certainly affect the entire campus community,” said Todd Hollingshead, BYU spokesperson. “However, given the uncertainty of what may or may not happen in the legislature, we couldn’t speculate at this point as to what that impact would be.”
In a 2013 study by the Public Religion Research Institute, 71 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage from the federally-mandated $7.25 an hour to $10.00 an hour. The support, however, varies greatly depending on party lines. Democrats pull the most support with 89 percent saying they would support the raise, while 68 percent of Independents support the raise and 57 percent of republicans are in favor, whereas only 42 percent of those in the Tea Party would support a raise.
Dabakis also mentioned that the raise in minimum wage should coincide with a proposal to raise the salary of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
“There’s a proposal to raise the governor’s salary by 39.8 percent, so this proposal would allow the governor to get his pay increase, if the legislature increases the minimum wage to $10.00 an hour,” Dabakis said.
Dabakis currently serves as the chairman of the Utah Democratic Party and was elected a Utah Senator in December 2012.