Economy

Governor: I Don’t Know What The Minimum Wage Should Be Because ‘The Private Sector Decides Wages’

CREDIT: AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

In a gubernatorial debate Tuesday night, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) was asked whether he supports the concept of a minimum wage.

“Sure,” he replied. But when asked what it should be, he responded, “How would I know — I mean, the private sector decides wages.”

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When he was asked again whether he supports the government setting the minimum wage, he said, “Just because they set a minimum wage doesn’t mean you get a job.”

He may not have an answer for where the minimum wage should be, but he’s ensured that Floridians can’t decide for themselves. In 2013, he signed a bill that bans local cities and counties from passing their own higher wages or other benefits like paid sick days.

Scott is just the latest Republican candidate for governor to speak out on the minimum wage. Earlier on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he is “tired of hearing about the minimum wage,” adding, “I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, ‘You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.” Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker went so far as to say he thinks the minimum wage “doesn’t serve a purpose.”

And Republicans in both the House and Senate have gone even further, saying that they would abolish the minimum wage completely if given the chance.

The minimum wage is an election issue in another way: voters in four states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — and two major cities — San Francisco and Oakland, CA — will weigh in on increases on the November 4th ballot. While the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t been raised in five years, 10 states raised their wages this year, half of them above $10 an hour.

But without a federal increase, the minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation — it would be over $10 an hour if it had done so since the 1960s — as well as with gains in workers’ productivity. If it had risen with Americans’ increasing output, it would be more than $20 an hour. Instead, wages for the bottom 60 percent of the country have either stagnated or fallen over the last decade.

The minimum wage used to be enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. But today, it can’t buoy a single parent above that line and isn’t enough to afford rent in any state, let alone cover other expenses. So many rely on public programs to get by: 45 percent of those who would be impacted by a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour receive government benefits. Increasing it to that level, on the other hand, would save $7.6 billion a year in spending on those programs.