A bill to raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $8 an hour was approved by the Senate in a narrow 12-9 vote March 21. Four of Sussex County’s five senators opposed the increase. Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford, was not present.
Senate Bill 6 would increase the minimum wage to $8 per hour beginning Monday, July 1, then to $8.75 per hour beginning July 1, 2014.
Also starting July 1, 2014, Delaware minimum wage would increase periodically by a percentage equal to the percentage of cost of living adjustment, as determined periodically under the federal Social Security Act.
According to the bill, if the federal minimum wage became higher than the Delaware minimum wage, the Delaware minimum wage would increase by $1 above the federal minimum wage.
Delaware's current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal minimum wage.
Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington, presented the proposal to the Senate. He said a full-time worker making minimum wage in Delaware is living below the federal poverty standard. If SB 6 were approved, full-time minimum wage earners would live only slightly above the poverty line. “It’s a step in the right direction to help,” he said.
Marshall said if workers are given higher wages, they are likely to spend more, benefiting the economy.
Joe Fitzgerald of New Castle County Chamber of Commerce testified small businesses already face higher workers’ compensation insurance rates, higher costs associated with the federal Affordable Care Act and a slow economy. “It’s a very trying time for small businesses in Delaware,” he said.
Fitzgerald asked senators to vote the bill down.
Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, also opposed the proposal. Hocker, who owns Hocker’s Super Center in Ocean View, said the increase would negatively impact the workers it aims to help.
Delaware small businesses are working on a shoestring, Hocker said. Minimum wage earners will be the first to be laid off because they are unskilled workers, he said.
Senators Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, and Robert Venables, D-Laurel, also opposed the bill.
SB 6 now heads to the House for consideration. To read the bill, go to delaware.gov.