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State Economists Measure Impact Of $15 Minimum Wage

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Voters across Florida will likely have a chance to raise the minimum wage during the 2020 election if a constitutional amendment petition gains enough signatures. Florida’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference met today to find out what impact it would have on the state.

Companies like Target, Walmart and Amazon have vowed to raise their minimum wage in the past. Amazon went to $15 dollars and Target followed, Walmart stopped short at $11 dollars an hour.

Now a 2020 ballot initiative being run by John Morgan, who led the Medical Marijuana initiative in 2016, is proposing raising minimum wage across the state to $15 dollars an hour.

It wouldn’t happen all at once. First it’d jump from the current amount of $8.46 to $10.00 in September of 2021, then each, year after by $1 per year September after until 2026.

This would set Florida apart from every other state in the country. Currently the city of Seattle in Washington requires $15 per hour for minimum wage.

Monday, Florida’s Chief Economist Amy Baker says no matter how you look at it it’s going to cost.

“When you raise the minimum wage, whether or not you think it’s a good thing somebodies still has to pay for it," said Baker.

She says most likely it’ll be a statewide effort, and these may need to be tax increases.

“Sales tax may go up slightly in the short run," said Baker.

There’s not a lot of research on the impact of a higher minimum wage, so the state looked at data from Seattle.

“One of the reasons Seattle was interesting to us, even though its slightly different. One they were getting to 15 dollars like we are. But the other reason it was of interest to us is that they’ve done it fairly recently. But they’ve done it long enough ago that there’s some studies coming out," said Baker.

She says one thing she saw was that those effected wouldn’t just be the ones making minimum wage.

“You have to adjust more than the minimum wage group itself. If you want to really keep a wage structure that makes sense or a payroll structure that makes sense, you may have to raise and adjust several layers into it," said Baker.

Baker says this would likely only effect the people currently making in between $15 and what the current minimum wage is. It’s something she calls a ripple effect.

"Most of the studies we saw of this rippling through payroll structures said that it tends to be those closest to the minimum wage at the lower part rather than all the way through to the top people," said Baker.

Those at the top will likely see fewer bonuses and raises, because businesses will be using that money to fund their lower income people. And Baker notes the sector that would see the most impact would be the public education system.

"We know it’s going to hit school districts the hardest. They have the most employees at lower levels," said Baker.

The ballot initiative currently has already gotten 96,000 signatures. To make it on the 2020 ballot it must get 766,200 signatures is February 1st 2020.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.