An unlikely advocate for one of the most progressive minimum wage proposals emerged last week: Republican congressional candidate David Jolly.
Democratic nominee Alex Sink supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10, as is currently being considered in Congress, while Jolly opposes it. However, in explaining his position to the Tribune, Jolly actually advocated another progressive proposal: indexing the minimum wage so it automatically increases every year.
“Minimum wage should be indexed to inflation or subject to a cost-of-living adjustment like any other federal income program,” Jolly said. “That means some years it may go up, other years it may stay static. Barack Obama is not an economist, neither is the Congress.”
The purchasing power of the minimum wage has significantly lagged the rate of inflation over the past four decades. In 1968, the federal minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. Had it kept up with inflation since then, it would currently be set over $10.50, 45 percent higher than its current rate of $7.25.
In addition, if Jolly preferred tying the minimum wage to increases in worker productivity, it would currently be $18.30 per hour, according to a study from the Economic Policy Institute.
Indexing the minimum wage is a strongly progressive proposal because it would give low-income workers a raise every year without having to rely on Congress, which has only voted for an increase once in the last decade.
To be sure, it’s possible that Jolly’s support for indexing is only to mask his opposition to the $10.10 increase that’s currently being considered. His campaign has also come under fire for a related issue — equal pay for women in the workplace — after it was revealed that he had lobbied against the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2009.
Raising the minimum wage has emerged as a key issue in Florida’s 13th congressional district special election, according to the St. Petersburg Tribune. A Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters released Friday suggests 73 percent of Floridians support the $10.10 an hour minimum wage. It also shows that 53 percent of Republicans in Florida agree. Nationally, two-thirds of American agree that the minimum wage should be set even higher, at $10.25 per hour.
The election to fill the late Rep. Bill Young’s (R-FL) seat takes place on March 11.