Scott's minimum wage bill reaches House floor

July 17, 2019
In The News

After nearly seven in 10 voters in Arkansas decided to increase the state’s minimum wage, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, is betting the four GOP members of Congress who represent that state will have a tough time voting against his proposal for a gradual increase in the federal minimum.

That federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Arkansas began raising its minimum in 2014, and voted again last November for another increase.In fact, says Scott, even by 2021, the $11 an hour minimum wage that Arkansas voters set will be higher than the gradual increases his measure would phase in. Scott aims to bring the national minimum to $15 an hour in gradual steps over the next six years.

“You know there’s not a a city or county in the United States where a person working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage can afford a modest two bedroom apartment,” Scott said. “I’m not talking about San Francisco or Manhattan; that’s everywhere in the United States.”

Scott thinks a higher minimum wage makes so much sense that at least a handful of Republican House members and maybe some of the GOP majority in the Senate, will remember the Arkansas state motto — Regnat Populus or “the people rule” — and vote for his bill.

Even the very conservative Congressional Budget Office estimates that Scott’s proposal will mean a pay increase for 27 million people (that’d be about 129,000 in the 3rd Congressional District, which Scott represents).. The impact on prices shouldn’t be more than the current 1% to 2% inflation rate, but even the first step, to $8.40 an hour this year, would mean a 16% increase in pay.

Scott notes that the most recent three studies the CBO cited forecast that jobs would increase, because a higher minimum wage would mean more consumer spending. To fill that demand, businesses would need to hire, those studies argue, Not all economists agree, but Scott said the experience of the United States sicne first imposing a minimum wage in 1938 that any short term drop in employment is minimal.

After the minimum wage reachs $15 an hour in 2025, Scott’s bill would index minimum wages to median wage growth. His billwould also phase out the much lower minimum that workers who are entitled to tips are paid, as well as the lower minimums for teenagers and people with disabilities.