State News

Democratic lawmakers introduce bill to raise state minimum wage to $15

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, re-introduced legislation Friday to increase Wisconsin’s minimum wage in aims to support middle class families.

Image By: Thomas Yonash

The minimum wage in Wisconsin would be raised to $15 from the standard $7.25 in an effort to support middle-class families, under a bill introduced by two Democratic lawmakers Friday.

Along with the $15 increase over a five-year period, the bill includes requirements for the minimum wage to be annually indexed to inflation after the fire-year period. It would also repeal the provision that prohibits municipalities from enacting and administering a minimum wage.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, and state Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, is the second attempt by Democrats to raise the state’s minimum wage after a similar bill died in 2015.

Wirch argued minimum wage workers spend nearly all of what they earn, so a wage increase would result in a boost to families as well as small businesses and communities.

“With so many families struggling just to get by and the cost of necessities and utilities continuing to rise, we need to take this small step to help them stay afloat,” he said in a statement.

One-in-four Wisconsin workers work minimum-wage jobs as of 2016, the lawmakers said, adding that the current level of minimum wages are not enough to keep a family of four out of poverty.

The memorandum also highlighted Wisconsin’s shrinking middle class, saying that between 2000 and 2013 Wisconsin “experienced the biggest decline in middle-income households in the country.” Wage stagnation and increased income disparity are the sources of this decline according to the lawmakers.

“Working middle-income families are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table,” Sargent said in the press release. “While Republicans are handing out $3 billion to a foreign corporation like Foxconn-it’s unconscionable.”

Increasing minimum wage has long been a goal for Democratic lawmakers at the state and federal level. The bill mirrors similar federal legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT.

With Republicans in control of both the state Assembly and state Senate, along with the governorship, it is unlikely the bill will pass this session. 


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