Embracing the concerns of Arkansas businesses, a Democrat-controlled House panel on Tuesday rejected a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage by $2, to $8.25 an hour.
Embracing the concerns of Arkansas businesses, a Democrat-controlled House panel on Tuesday rejected a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage by $2, to $8.25 an hour. The House Committee on Public Health voted 10-6 against the bill, with Democratic Reps. Deborah Ferguson and Mark Perry joining Republicans who opposed the measure. Rep. Butch Wilkins, D-Bono, said he sponsored the bill to improve the lives of working families, noting that the state has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country. "It's not going to make someone rich who was poor," he told lawmakers. "We've got some catching up to do in Arkansas." Proponents of raising the minimum wage said it would actually spur economic growth because struggling, low-income households were more likely to spend any additional money at local businesses, rather than save it. The state's minimum wage has been $6.25 since lawmakers last approved an increase in 2006. Some Arkansas workers are subject to the higher, federal minimum wage of $7.25. A worker making the state minimum wage earns $250 a week before taxes, or $13,000 a year. The federal poverty level is $11,170 annually. The measure rejected Tuesday would have increased the state minimum wage to $330 a week or $17,160 a year. It would have continued to exempt students working part-time from the full minimum wage. Opponents of the measure — including the Arkansas Hospitality Association and a group representing disability service-providers — said increasing the minimum wage would force employers to cut back workers' hours or reduce the size of their workforces. Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said earlier this year that he thought raising the minimum wage to $8.25 would be "problematic" and doubted it would pass the Legislature this year. Wilkins said the Democratic votes against raising the minimum wage made it unlikely that he'll bring the measure up again during this year's legislative session.