Minimum Wage Debate Focuses On Ohio's Economy

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UPDATED: Tuesday February 4, 2014 6:23 PM

The head of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz says an increase in the federal minimum wage will help Ohio's economy.

"This isn't just a proposal supported by Democrats; economists and nearly three-quarters of Americans support giving hard working folks a raise," said Wasserman Schultz.  "Research shows this wage increases could lift approximately five million people out of poverty, ensuring a more secure future and increasing economic activity in their communities."

Wasserman Schultz was joined on a conference call with reporters Tuesday by Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Youngstown, and by Nicki Strong, an Akron grocery worker.

All three advocate boosting the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.  Ohio's minimum wage is currently $7.95 an hour.

"Considering there has not been an increase since July 2009, workers who depend on these wages have been losing income to inflation for over four years," said Wasserman Schultz.  "A raise is long overdue."

Ohio business leaders, including Roger Geiger, Vice President and Ohio executive director for the National Federation of Independent Business, disagree with a minimum wage mandate.

"It's about the cost of doing business," said Geiger.  "The impact to small businesses would be pretty dramatic.  It's costly to do business right now with increased health care costs, taxes and regulations.  This is all part of Washington's class warfare tactic and it will hurt the economic engine of the state.

Wasserman Schultz says that argument has been used by Republicans and business interests since debate over a minimum wage began.

"The reality is, that's what they always say," said Wasserman Schultz.  "You have 600 economists who have weighed in on not only the economic boon the federal minimum wage increase would be, but how critical it is.  When you look through the years when the minimum wage was increased, that criticism has never bore out."

Geiger says he has proof that a minimum wage increase will slow down Ohio's economy.

"We've seen it before and it stands to reason that if you raise the cost of doing business, those costs are passed on to customers," said Geiger.  "If the government raises the minimum wage one of three things will happen:  The business will raise prices.  It will cut back on hiring or layoff part time workers.  Or it will not expand or even close down.  Money just doesn't grow on trees for small businesses."

President Obama announced in his State of the Union Address last week that he will use his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts.

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