Edwards pay agenda faces hurdles

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

“Paying our workers a living wage is a basic principle in a land of opportunity."

On the opening day of the regular session last week Gov. John Bel Edwards said he wanted to attack poverty by hiking the minimum wage.

“Paying our workers a living wage is a basic principle in a land of opportunity,” Edwards said. “$7.25 per hour is simply not a living wage in 2016.”

He called it a “modest increase” that would be phased in over the next two years with a minimum wage of $8 per hour beginning in 2017 and then $8.50 in 2018. He noted 14 other states kicked off the New Year with increased minimum wages.

Equal pay for women is another component of his plan.

“Single mother households account for the majority of Louisiana families living in poverty and over half of our low income families,” the governor said.

On the Senate side, Labor and Industrial Relations Chairman Neil Riser, R-Columbia, expressed doubt that the proposals will move.

“I don’t think I can support that,” he said.

On the House side, Republicans on the labor counterpart committee outnumber Democrats 10 to seven, although Chairman Patrick Jefferson, D-Shreveport, has supported similar measures in the past.

Dawn Starns, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, is planning to fight the proposals as well.

“NFIB is asking the Legislature to push back against Gov. Edwards’ overreaching policies that would create additional hardships for Louisiana’s job creators,” she said. “We need lawmakers to look for ways to help small businesses grow and create jobs and lead Louisiana’s economy back to solid ground. We can’t afford for legislators to put politics ahead of common sense.”