In an effort that could raise California’s minimum wage to the highest in the country, State Senator Mark Leno (D) introduced a bill this past Monday that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 in 2015, $12 in 2016, $13 in 2017, and finally to an annually adjusted wage tied to increases in inflation beginning in 2018. The new bill comes only months after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill to increase the minimum wage to $9 this coming July and then to $10 in 2016.
Leno, whose new legislation is already backed by labor groups such as the California Labor Federation and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said that his action is a response to the president’s State of the Union last week, which urged officials on both the local and state level to address the minimum wage. The legislation follows on the heels of a campaign from California’s conservative millionaire Rob Unz,a who is urging his own party to consider raising the minimum wage to $10 in 2014 and then increase it to $12 in 2016, as it would save taxpayers over a trillion dollars over the course of the next five years.
While Leno expects that his bill will be met with resistance, he remains optimistic that, on the issue of the minimum wage, the left and the right can meet on common ground. Currently, about 24 percent of California’s residents live in poverty, and the current minimum wage of $8 an hour brings in about $8,000 less than what is considered the poverty line for a family of four for a single person working full time.
Including California, six states passed a wage increase in 2013 and over 25 states are currently aiming for a ballot or legislative initiative to raise the wage. Raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour could reduce the number of people living under the poverty line by 6.8 million.