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Last week, the governors of California and New York signed bills that would eventually create a minimum wage of $15 per hour in those states, almost double Texas' minimum wage, which hasn't moved in seven years.
According to Texas law, the state will always maintain the same minimum wage set by the federal government. Right now that number has been fixed at $7.25 since 2009.
Garrett Groves, Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at the Center for Public Policy Priorities said $7.25 is not enough for the average worker in Texas to get by.
“If you work full time on a minimum wage job, you'll bring home around $15,000 a year, which is not much certainly,” Groves said, “and you need almost twice that just to pay for housing, for food, for health care and transportation costs. And you'll need more than that if you are trying to support a family on that amount.”
Groves led the charge during the last legislative session to bump the minimum wage in Texas to $10.10. According to his report, “It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage in Texas.” This is the amount needed to support a family in Texas on a minimum wage salary.
“Many of us were surprised that it is a quarter of the workforce that would be affected by minimum wage increase to $10,” Groves said. “So that's one out of every four workers or two and a half million people make less than that amount of money.”
The proposal didn't make it past a discussion on the house floor, but Groves said he plans to bring it up again in the upcoming legislative session.
“There will be legislation that will be proposed,” Groves said. “The dollar amount will probably go higher than $10.10.”
However, many republican lawmakers have expressed their concern for raising the minimum wage. U.S. Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) said he doesn't think a wage hike would be good for the overall economy.
“I think it is a disincentive for businesses to bring in people who are you know, first time in the job market, give them training so they can be a more productive member of that firm,” Neugebauer said. “So I think the government setting prices for anything is not good policy.”
Dr. Vance Ginn with the Center for Fiscal Policy said raising the minimum wage in Texas would hurt the state's economy.
“Really what we are doing by raising the minimum wage and reduce the number of jobs available,” Ginn said. “We're reducing their opportunity to move up the income spectrum and to be more prosperous over time.”
Ginn said the biggest reason why a wage increase in Texas is not as necessary as it would be in California is simply the difference in cost of living.
“California is about 45 percent more expensive,” Ginn said. “Their cost of living is about 45 percent more expensive than in Texas. And so that means they can buy a lot less, even whenever they are still earning a higher amount.”
The discussion surrounding minimum wage has also hit the presidential campaign trails. Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that if elected she plans on raising the federal minimum wage to $12.
“It's important to point out that there are people who don't believe that the minimum wage should be raised,” Clinton said. “In fact, Donald Trump has said that wages are too high. And a lot of members of his party agree.”
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.