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Ohio Democrats make another attempt at $15 minimum wage

KEITH ARNOLD
Special to the Legal News

Published: March 15, 2019

Democrat lawmakers have resuscitated an effort to raise the state's minimum wage, an issue that has lost momentum in recent years as the economy took off and a number of large employers bumped up entry-level pay rates on their own.

Filed as Senate Bill 90, the legislation calling for an increase the state minimum wage also would undo a 2016 law prohibiting local municipalities from imposing minimum wages higher than the statewide minimum wage.

"We have an obligation to make life better for the people in our state and that includes providing living wages," a joint sponsor of the bill, Cincinnati Sen. Cecil Thomas, said in a prepared statement. "This increase to the minimum wage will help workers and their families have a better life.

"And when people have more money, it also benefits the local economy from increased spending in the community."

The bill proposes incrementally raising Ohio's minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The last session of the General Assembly of the Ohio Legislature saw at least four similar bills introduced in both houses proposing hikes to the state minimum wage - none of which were passed by the legislature.

"It's long overdue that working Ohioans get a raise," fellow joint sponsor Sen. Hearcel Craig of Columbus said. "We are not keeping up with inflation and workers are actually making less per hour than they did decades ago.

"By introducing $15 an hour gradually, we are ensuring full-time workers can provide for their families with a livable wage that offers more opportunity to improve the quality of their lives."

The current minimum wage in Ohio is $8.55 per hour. SB 90 calls for an increase to $12 per hour, starting in January 2020 and make yearly increases of $1.00 per hour until 2023.

After that, the minimum wage will increase every year to keep pace with inflation, as required by the Ohio Constitution, lawmakers said.

They added that the current minimum wage leaves an Ohio full-time worker - one who works 40 hours a week - about $3,000 below the federal poverty line, if he is supporting a family of three.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Ohioans need to earn a minimum of $15.25 an hour to be able to rent a modest two-bedroom home without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Twenty-nine states have laws mandating higher minimum wages than the $7.25 federal minimum wage, which has not changed since 2009.

Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, recently introduced companion legislation in the Ohio House.

SB 90 awaits committee referral for a hearing.

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