Baldwin backs big minimum wage hike, Johnson supports smaller increase

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 11:27 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 8:27 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin joined nearly three dozen Democratic senators to help introduce legislation that would more than double the federal minimum wage over the next several years.

“The growing gap between those at the top and everybody else has been at historic highs in recent years,” Baldwin said. “The absence of upward mobility for hard working families demands action and it is past time to raise the minimum wage.”

The new bill, spearheaded by former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) would push the federal minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25/hr. for most employees to $15/hr. over the next four years, Sen. Baldwin’s office explained. After reaching that level, the minimum wage would be indexed to median wage growth.

Sen. Ron Johnson said in an interview with NBC15 Wednesday that he was in support of increasing the minimum wage, but said $15 was “too large of a jump.”

“I think you do need to find the Goldilocks’s solution here,” he said. “You need to find the level that is just right.”

Johnson did not specify how much he would like the wage to be raised to, saying he wanted to discuss the move with economic experts and his colleagues first.

Rep. Mark Pocan was in support of the increase, saying it was about time.

“7.35 an hour is about 15,000 a year,” Pocan said. “You cannot live on 15,000 a year working 40 hours a week. You can’t have a minimum wage that you live in poverty by working at that wage.”

“Let’s be clear. The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage,” Sanders argued. “No person in America can make it on $8, $10, or $12 an hour. In the United States of America a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it.”

Baldwin’s office cited a report by the Economic Policy Institute that state’s the legislation, dubbed the Raise the Wage Act, would increase the pay for 32 million Americans, including approximately 1 in 3 of Black workers and a quarter of Latino workers.

Baldwin explained she signed onto the bill by contending the state’s economy benefits most when more people have more opportunities. She added that “many frontline workers are really struggling to get by during this economic crisis and an honest day’s work should pay more.”

The last time the federal minimum wage increased was 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency as part of 2007 legislation signed by then-President George W. Bush. While many other states have increased their respective minimum wages, in Wisconsin it remains at the federal level.

The U.S. House of Representatives has also introduced its own legislation that also increases the minimum wage to $15/hr. through annual jumps. According to its schedule the minimum wage over the next several years would be:

  • 2022 - $11,
  • 2023 - $12.50,
  • 2024 - $14
  • 2025 - $15

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