Increased minimum wage discussion has variety of stances from small business owners

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Michael Crimmins

Business owners across the state differ in opinions on proposed $15 minimum wage.

President Joe Biden, shortly after his inauguration, stated his administration’s desire to raise the national minimum wage to $15 by 2025, spark- ing debates both for and against the proposal.

“It’s long past time we raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Biden said in a tweet. This was in response to the current minimum wage being $7.25, which has remained stagnant since 2009, despite an increased cost of living.

As of Feb. 26, the minimum wage provision had been removed from the relief package, but Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders have expressed a desire to introduce this idea as its own bill.

Scott Lasley, head of the political science department, said that if the minimum wage were adjusted to inflation it would be about $8.70 right now.

The plan for the increase would happen in stages over a number of years.

Lasley said this is a complex economic issue with both positive and negative consequences.

“The impact would vary significantly across regions of the country,” Lasley said. “It would take time to achieve a new equilibrium.”

Businesses that cannot make up the differences in cost would be forced to close their doors. Even businesses not directly involved in minimum wage would be affected indirectly, Lasley said.

Lasley acknowledged that there are good effects that can come from an increase.

“There is reason to believe that at least in the short term, an increase in minimum wage can lead to increased worker productivity,” Lasley said.

Sweetheart Bakery, located in Glasgow, is one local business apprehensive of the president’s proposition.

Linda Young, owner of Sweetheart Bakery, reflected on the impact of the proposed increase in the minimum wage.

“I’m for a better wage as long as the government takes care of small businesses like they said they’re going to,” Young said.

She said that once the pay has been increased past the value of one’s product, in her case pastries, then it becomes a problem.

“It’ll be hard to keep the doors open,” Young said.

She said that she would love to pay her employees more, but it is not feasible without some form of government help. Young said that if lower taxes were on the table then that would be enough to help offset the increased minimum wage.

Another local figure, John Cox, businessman in Shelbyville, gave his opinion on the wage increase.

“It should already be $15,” Cox said. “The cost of labor wouldn’t
deter anyone serious from opening a business. You figure in labor and other expenses of business and adjust prices accordingly.”

Cox said the purpose of minimum wage should be livable, above the poverty line, for anyone working 40 hours a week.

He said his parents worked during college and graduated debt free. This is something he said is not possible today given the “exponential” rise of college and the stagnant.

“It wouldn’t be a deal breaker if it [minimum wage] doubled,” Cox said. “It all washes out, and we know it all washes out.”

When asked if he believed the wage should be increased, he gave a resounding “absolutely.”

There are some Democrats who are against Biden’s plan. Arizona Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said this push for a major increase could deal a “death blow” to any future efforts for the minimum wage if this should fall through. In total, seven Democrats have voiced their opposition to the increase.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who opposes such an increase, said this would hurt teens greatly.

“When you make the wage above what the market dictates, more people lose their jobs,” Paul said in a WBKO article. “It’s one of those things that sounds good on the surface.”

Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected] edu. Follow him on Twitter @michael_ crimm.