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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

Going for Broke on Minimum Wage
Another inflationary burden for employers...
[Ray Haynes] 6/22/04

The economic recovery in America has begun, if you believe the Labor reports and most of the economists. It has also started in California, if you look at the increased revenues coming into the state and some other indicators. It hasn’t recovered so strongly, though, that it can withstand continued efforts by the Democrats in this state to shove the economy back into the ditch.

Last October, the recall election shook up the capitol considerably. Many people who didn’t seem to care much about the burdens they had placed on business and the job killing economic climate they had created, suddenly became pro-business—at least in their rhetoric. Suddenly everybody was in favor of things like workers compensation reform, and to their credit, we even managed to make significant progress in that area (though more could be done). Many of us suspected that this newfound appreciation of employers was only for show while the heat was still on, and sure enough, the legislative majority has continued to pursue burdensome regulations, mandates, and fees on business that could easily disrupt our fragile economic recovery.

Perhaps the worst of the bunch is the new minimum wage increase that is being considered in Sacramento. In the wake of high energy costs, high building costs, high liability insurance costs, and workers’ compensation reform that isn’t going to reduce costs nearly as much as we need to, we cannot afford to drive up even higher the costs of doing business in California. Even if you do not pay the minimum wage to more than a handful of employees, the inflationary impact it has on the entire salary scale can be significant.

The Democrats on the floor insisted that raising the minimum wage from $6.75 an hour (already higher than the national wage) to $7.75 an hour (the highest in the country) was too small to hurt businesses, and oddly, even too small to help minimum wage-earners! Barely enough for a sandwich, I recall them saying on the floor. If the intent of their bill is to help families with five children where the primary wage earner has chosen “pickle stacker” at McDonalds as their career, then clearly $7.75 an hour isn’t enough. After all, as the Democrats themselves said on the floor, that is still below the federal poverty line!

So with tongue firmly in cheek, I rose to make the following statement on the floor:

Thank you Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill, because it doesn’t go far enough.

We ought to have a minimum wage that’s at least $20 an hour, and you all know it. I can’t believe that you would stand up here on this floor and agree to a minimum wage that is only $6 or $7 or $8 an hour, when it ought to be $20 an hour. How can you live below the poverty level? Twenty dollars an hour is $40,000 a year, and everybody knows that that’s a good middle class income, and that’s what we ought to be paying people. Regardless of what their skill level is, regardless of what their education is, regardless of whether they can do the job or not, they ought to receive a salary of $40,000 per year.

And we in government can make sure that happens by FORCING businesses to do it!

We in government can ORDER people to pay $20 per hour. And you know what? They’ll either do it, or they’ll go out of business. They’ll either do it, or they’ll move out of this state. They’ll either do it, or they will not continue to service the people of California. Because after all, we know that they’re all just evil profiteers, and they just want to steal people’s money from them, all they want to do is abuse their employees, all they want to do is cheat the people of the state of California---and we can FORCE them to not do that! So how can we on this floor in good conscience vote for this bill? It doesn’t go far enough. Until you’ve got the courage of your convictions to stand up, and instead of doing this in little tiny baby bites, until you have the courage of your convictions to ORDER people to pay a living wage of $20 an hour, until you’re ready to do the right thing, we shouldn’t pass this bill—I ask for a “no” vote.

The Democrats were at all not happy with me. They accused me of “mocking” them. They went on to pass AB 2832 on a 46-30 straight party line vote. This moves it one step closer to adding yet another cost to employers in California for a program that has never shown any legitimate long-term benefit to “the poor”, and that has far more often been shown to be a detriment not only to employers, but to the very “poor” the program is supposed to help. After all, you can only make the minimum wage if you have an employer who is providing a job. CRO


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