After Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, asked the Senate Finance Committee to “dig deep into your souls,” members shrugged off the appeal and buried the last remaining minimum wage increase proposal of the session. The legislation was part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ official package.
Carter’s Senate Bill 153 would have established a state minimum wage of $8 on Jan. 1 and then up to $8.50 in 2019. “We’re asking for the tiniest sliver of an increase,” Carter told the committee.
While other states have turned similar minimum wage efforts into ballot initiatives, Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said that kind of process was not available legislatively in Louisiana. An amendment floated to do just that never got off the ground as a result.
There are 85,000 workers in Louisiana who would have received an immediate raise if the bill were enacted, according to Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project. Of that count, one in three are parents, he said, and one in five are single parents.
“I’m ashamed to be asking for that,” Carter told the committee, referencing a wage of $8. “I’m going to introduce this bill every year until it’s done.”
Many of the same arguments that surfaced in an unrelated House committee debate last week were echoed in today’s Finance Committee meeting. That included pleas from senators for the state to focus instead on improving the economy, which would hopefully in turn boost job creation and pave the way for better pay. Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, also warned that any approach to higher wages that isn’t market-driven would result in layoffs as businesses struggle to meet such a mandate.
“Companies do have to consider budgets, just like the state does,” added Jim Patterson, vice president of government relations at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.