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Florida Lawmakers Pushing For Higher Minimum Wage

National Low Income Housing Coalition

As workers across the country push for higher minimum wage, two Florida lawmakers are joining the fight. They’ve filed a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. But earning a living wage is about more than a person’s hourly pay.

Renting a two-bedroom apartment in Florida would require an hourly income, on average, of $19.47.  That’s according to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The wage needed in Georgia is $15.71 and the wage required in Arkansas is $12.95. But those calculations are based on a person who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – a full time job. Those can be hard to find. Just ask Kevin Purser. He's worked several minimum wage jobs in several states.

"Sometimes way back, they might give you 30 to 35, but no never a 40 hour week,” Purser says.

Typically Purser says he’d work about 25 hours a week or sometimes even 15, working a few hours almost every day. And since he doesn’t have a car, he spent hours traveling to and from work each day on the bus. Purser says that made working a second job nearly impossible.

“Working one job that’s a 15 hour a week job, you can’t tell you other job, ok next week when you schedule me, because you don’t know what you’re working," Purser says. "Generally both jobs would post the schedule three days before your week starts and you’re calling into one job so you can work the other job.”

Call in too many times, and Purser says suddenly you’re not on the schedule at all. So he made a budget. But even following that budget, he couldn’t keep up. But what if he were paid $15 per hour? Would that help? Purser flips open his notebook.

"This is best case scenario. $15 dollars an hour at 30 hours a week, which is twice what they pay you anymore for a minimum wage job. $90 of that is gone in taxes before you ever seen your check," Purser says. "So, you’re making $360 a week. That’s $1,440 a month.”

Purser adds up rent, gas and groceries, utilities…

“That leaves you $370 a month to get car insurance, phone, internet. Or you can try to put it back and just try to drive to work and do nothing else. You can’t eat out. You can’t go out with your friends. And that’s at $15 an hour,” Purser says.

Kissimmee Democratic Senator Darren Soto is cosponsoring a bill with Miami Democratic Senator Dwight Bullard that would raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. Minimum wage now in Florida is a little more than $8 dollars an hour now and Soto says getting the state’s Republican legislature to bump that up to $15 will be tough. But he says that’s no reason not to try. He wants to get the conversation started.

“Heck if we got even $9 or $10 dollars an hour it would be a huge improvement for many of those families,” Soto says.

Meanwhile, others are working to get a proposed constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot. It would increase Florida’s minimum wage to about $10 an hour. And one of the major arguments used against a minimum wage increase is slipping according to a study by the Tallahassee think tank Integrity Florida.

Ben Wilcox is the group's Research Director.

“The preponderance of existing research finds that raising the minimum wage does not cause job loss,”
Wilcox says.

The study compared states and municipalities that raised their minimum wage requirements above the federal level to those that stayed the same. But while Wilcox  says while a higher wage doesn’t mean fewer jobs, the study found a it doesn’t lead to job growth either. So, while the conversation is getting started, there’s likely quite a bit more talking to do

In the meantime next time you’re in a rush and make a quick stop at a fast food joint, Purser asks you to consider thanking that person hanging out the drive through window.

“Tell them they’re appreciated. Tell them that they’re doing a good job, because they never hear it,” Purser says.

Purser says a little recognition could make a big difference.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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