Leaders weigh in on minimum wage

  • Tuesday, May 6, 2014

South Carolina officials have been discussing the possibility of raising minimum wage in the state – but while bills have been proposed not everyone is supportive of the idea.

The state’s minimum wage sits at $7.25 per hour.

Rep. Joe Jefferson, a Democrat representing District 102, said that amount equals a yearly salary of a little over $15,000 – “which is poverty, if you ask me.”

There are some bills in both the S.C. House and Senate examining the idea right now: one bill is recommending $9.75 per hour and another is pushing for $10 per hour. Jefferson said neither bill has advanced out of its respective chamber. There is a bill in the senate for $9.50, which also has not been moved.

Jefferson said he is supportive of raising minimum wage.

“We need to at least look into the livability of people in our state,” he said, adding that despite his feelings, he does not see minimum wage going up anytime this year.

“The economy has improved tremendously, so why not improve the lives of people by increasing the minimum wage?”

Sen. Sean Bennett, a Summerville Republican, said he has been following the minimum wage discussion on the national level but does not feel there has been a lot of “serious discussion” on the state level.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he said. “I understand the emotion involved but the effects it has on businesses and, ultimately, the individuals it’s designed to help ... I think it shows that it does more bad than good.”

Like Jefferson, Bennett does not see minimum wage going up in the state anytime soon. Bennett feels more job opportunities – and education – need to be created so that people who are stuck in minimum wage positions can eventually move on.

“People talk about how you can’t support a family on minimum wage, and I agree, but that’s not what it’s designed to do,” he said. “It’s designed to get people into the workforce. I don’t think it was ever designed for a minimum wage position to be a goal to aspire to.”

Bennett added he is “not knocking” people who already work in minimum wage jobs, but said he would like to see an environment better suited for preparing people to move up in the workforce.

“It’s a great feel-good topic,” he said. “Would it be better for everyone to make more money? Sure it would. But you can’t create an artificial wealth by creating a higher wage.”

Jefferson disagrees. He said many who oppose an increase may fear their own salaries going down in order to give salary increases to those working minimum wage positions.

“We need to do a better job in looking out for those who need the wage increase the most,” he said.

Jefferson feels there are people in Dorchester and Berkeley County who could use the salary increase. “Inflation is rising every year and in order to keep up with inflation we need increases every now and then to keep up,” he said.

However, others feel there might be deeper repercussions within the economy if minimum wage goes up.

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