A bill calling for a $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage passed through the Senate labor committee today. The legislation is expected to be debated on the Senate floor Thursday.


 


A bill calling for a $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage passed through the Senate labor committee today.

If signed into law, the legislation would raise the current wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.25 per hour over the next two years.

Sen. Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West), the bill’s lead sponsor, said increasing the wage will help Delaware’s lowest earners keep up with rising food, utility and health care costs.

“I believe if we are to maintain a qualified workforce in Delaware and be able to compete at all levels with other states, then we must be responsive to the needs at all levels of our workforce,” Marshall said. “Those at the very bottom deserve our attention as much as the executives and the managers at the top.”

Marshall was met with opposition from leaders of local chamber of commerce organizations.

Richard Heffron of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce voiced concern over the bill citing the negative impacts it could have on small businesses and minimum wage workers.

“Several studies have shown by doing this you actually hurt the people you’re trying to help,” Heffron said. “What actually happens when you raise the minimum wage is people at the lowest end of the economy lose their jobs.”

Ellen Valentino of the National Federation of Independent Businesses agreed with Heffron.

“I understand the goals behind proponents wanting to move forward with this. I do believe there’s a place and time,” she said. “I can’t make the commitment today saying ‘another place, another time,’ because I may never think there’s another time on behalf of my members. We don’t like to be in a position where we’re competing in what would be an unfair playing field with respect to labor costs with our surrounding [states].”

The legislation calls for a gradual increase with a 50-cent hike to $7.75 per hour taking place on Jan. 1, 2013 and another 50-cent hike $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2014.

The bill passed the labor committee with Sens. Anthony DeLuca (D-Varlano), David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest) and Marshall in favor and Sen. Dorinda Connor (R-Penn Acres) on its merits. The issue is expected to be debated on the Senate floor Thursday.