Proposed bill would raise Oklahoma minimum wage

OKLAHOMA CITY - A bill filed in the Oklahoma Senate would raise the minimum wage by more than $3.

Senate Bill 102 is authored by Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, which proposes to raise the minimum from $7.25 an hour to $10.50 an hour.

"When you’re talking about minimum wage, what you ought to be talking about is a living wage. How much does it cost for family of two to really survive and to really make it on?" Young said. "We need to raise it because we’re doing good, we are doing good but we still have so many folks who are struggling and if you’ve got those folk on the bottom who are struggling because of a reason we can fix, let’s fix that and that raises the whole tax base."

The annual earnings for a full-time minimum-wage worker is $15,080 at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. Full-time work means working 2,080 hours each year, which is 40 hours each week.

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports of the 901,000 workers paid hourly rates in Oklahoma in 2017, 12,000 earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, while 16,000 earned less.

"Assistant Commissioner for Regional Operations Stanley W. Suchman noted that the 28,000 workers earning the federal minimum wage or less made up 3.1 percent of all hourly paid workers in the state," the most recent report states.

For the past three years, Young has filed legislation raising the state's minimum wage. However, the bills have not received hearings in committees.

"The first one was $15 an hour, and okay then maybe I was just too high so I’ve lowered it to 10.50, which is really, again – not enough. But, you take these things in increments so, if I could get them to at least hear it, then I can talk more about it. And, I’m getting feedback from folk who are saying 'You’re right – we do need to raise the minimum wage because it would be very helpful for folks who are working those jobs,'" Young told News 4.

Opponents of the measure, including the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), said the legislation may have unintended consequences. OCPA executive vice-president Trent England said their organization works to influence public policy in the direction of free markets and limited government.

"Senator Young is very well-intended, as I think all advocates for higher minimum wage. The problem is there is a downside," England said.

According to England, their concern with measures like this is that it could hurt the people it is designed to help.

"They tend to be younger workers, a lot of entry-level workers, a lot of workers who are working part-time and going to school. Your average minimum wage worker tends to be someone who is just coming into the workforce, trying to get that first hold on the economic ladder," he said. "What happens often, when minimum wages are increased, is that a business is going to look for more experienced workers to fill jobs where they might have hired someone with no experience before."

For a copy of the bill, click here.