House committee tables minimum wage bill

Opponents argue increase would hurt small businesses
May 10, 2013
House Economic Development Committee members blocked a bill to increase the state minimum wage from being considered by the full House.  The bill passed the Senate March 21. BY KARA NUZBACK

Minimum wage earners in Delaware won’t likely see an increase in their paycheck this year.  The House Economic Development Committee voted May 8 to table a bill that would have raised the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour by 2015.

Committee members who voted in opposition to the bill said the state economy was still recovering from a recession, and the pay rise would hinder small businesses from hiring more workers.

Senate Bill 6 would have required employers to pay a minimum of $7.75 an hour to each worker by Jan. 1, 2014, and $8.25 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015.

Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington West, a sponsor of the legislation, said there are 4,000 workers currently making minimum wage in Delaware.  “We see this as a very effective way, believe it or not, to stimulate the economy,” he told the committee.

Brady said if Delaware workers were paid more, they would put the extra money back into the state economy to purchase goods.

Committee member Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, argued SB 6 would not stimulate the economy and would hurt small businesses.  “It’s just going to be another hurdle for them to create jobs,” he said.  “You install a minimum wage when businesses can afford to do it, not when they’re struggling to get by.”

Committee member Rep. Andria Bennett, D-Dover, who voted to table the bill, said small businesses also face increased workers’ compensation rates.  “If we raise minimum wage, they’re just going to lay people off,” she said.  “Maybe this should be put off for a little while.”

Brady said the same argument was used two years ago when legislators tried, and failed, to raise the minimum wage.  “When is the time?” Brady asked.  “A livable wage would be much more than this.”

Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, said in her 17 years on the committee, she has never heard small businesses or any chamber of commerce say it was the right time to raise the minimum wage.

Keeley, who voted to release the bill from committee, said taxpayers foot the bill for government assistance, such as food stamps, when workers can’t earn a livable wage.

Representatives of state and local chambers of commerce, Dover Downs, Delaware Restaurant Association, Delaware Hotel and Lodging Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses and one small business owner from New Castle County attended the committee hearing to testify against the bill.  Only three people offered testimony in favor of SB 6.

Committee Chairman Bryon Short, D-Brandywine Hundred, was one of the seven committee members who voted to table the bill.  “I would love to vote for a minimum wage increase,” he said.  “But in my opinion, this is not the time.”

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