After states such as Washington, Arkansas and Alaska approved higher wages for minimum-wage employees, eligible Georgia residents may also experience an increase in their paychecks after this legislative season.
House Bill 8 (HB 8), proposed to raise Georgia’s minimum-wage from an averaged $6.20 per hour to $15, was introduced on Jan. 13 and is being examined by the Georgia House of Representatives.
The bill intends to provide a higher minimum wage for eligible Georgia workers, according to the Georgia General Assembly’s webpage. If approved the bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
Including the initial minimum wage increase, the bill also aims to annually increase the minimum wage comparable costs of living. Each year the Georgia Department of Labor would be required to measure the percentage increase in the cost of living and calculate an adjusted minimum wage for the next year, according to the Georgia General Assembly’s website.
One of the HB8’s four sponsors, Representative Dewey McClain, said he hopes the bill will help working men and women attain a better standard of living.
“There has not been a wage increase since 2009, and $7.25 an hour is $15,000 a year… $15 an hour, you are still borderline poverty because you’re making $30,000 a year,” McClain said. “My accomplishment is trying to get working men and women out of poverty. You work all day but you’re still in poverty,” he said.
McClain also said the bill would benefit employers as well as employees.
“If the employers are participating in this program it helps them by not having to retrain employees to take someone’s place. Instead of an employee getting up every morning looking for work — looking for better work — he or she will stay with an employer longer,” he said.
How businesses would be affected
Jeff Steinbuck, owner of Walter’s Clothing, said he felt higher wages wouldn’t necessarily guarantee higher employee loyalty.
“If it’s $10 an hour versus $15 an hour it really doesn’t matter. It’s immaterial as long as everyone is getting paid the same wage,” he said.
Steinbuck also said he felt it might be hard for many businesses to adjust to a possible wage increase.
“If it raises to $15 an hour I think that would be pretty hard for a lot of businesses to absorb that kind of increase,” he said.
Currently more than 90 percent of workers are covered under the federal minimum wage, leaving only 10 percent not provided for, according to Georgia State professor Bruce Kaufman.
However, Georgia’s current minimum wage, $6.20 an hour, is ‘almost irrelevant’ as few employers offer such a low wage in the modern labor market, according to Kaufman.
Kaufman said an increase in the minimum wage would be helpful to those in need on the lower end of the job spectrum.
“The demand-supply situation in the low end of Georgia labor markets is pretty unbalanced because there are so many more job seekers than there are job openings. Thus, people can’t get a decent wage to live on and many also don’t get benefits,” he said. “ A rise in the minimum wage is a useful way to give these people a raise when excess labor supply makes it impossible for them to get it on their own.”
Kaufman also said raising the minimum wage might not have a severe impact on businesses and the overall economy.
“Evidence indicates a moderate increase in the minimum wage typically has a pretty small job loss effect, partly because firms raise prices to offset the labor cost increase and partly because they find offsetting economies elsewhere in their operations.”
An increase in Georgia’s minimum wage legislation would not be uncalled for nor the first of its kind, according to Kaufman.
“Of course, the benefits and costs change as you talk about an $8 vs. $12 vs. $15 minimum wage. Currently the Georgia minimum wage is one of the lowest in the 50 states so giving it a hike is hardly radical. Note, for example, that people in four relatively conservative states voted last November to raise their state minimum wage,” he said.
However, Kaufman also said he felt HB8’s proposed $15 an hour would be too great an increase and suggested raising the wages in increments.
“It needs to be done in increments so business firms can have more time to adjust,” Kaufman said.
How working students would be affected
Georgia State student Hillary Austin said she believes HB8 would be a life-changing legislative move.
“I think that if this bill goes through it could change people’s lives. I can’t believe something like this hasn’t been brought up already, honestly. As the cost of living goes up, then so should minimum wage,” she said. “I could tell you how many people I know that have to work two or more jobs just to feed themselves and afford the basic essentials, but that would be an outrageously long list.”
Austin also said the bill could help students who are working to pay for tuition.
“For students who are taking a lot of credit hours, I think the increase would help limit how many hours they had to work during the school week, which could possibly improve their grades … it would give them more money to handle the costs of being full time students,” she said.
Neuroscience major Stephen Green said he felt raising minimum wage might be helpful but it could also have negative impacts.
“Maybe this would be a good step, but I’m not sure how you could raise the minimum wage and not keep everything else from inflating along with everything else. At this point there should be something done to help relieve stress on lower income families and even provide some minor luxuries,” he said.
Green also said raising the minimum wage could give smaller consumers more money to spend on regular goods in the economy.
“I think overall it would be good, getting money into small consumers’ hands — not people who buy yachts or Lamborghinis, but people who buy basic supplies — because they tend to spend out of necessity. So if they have more money in their hands, they’re going to be required to spend it anyway,” he said.
Amanda O’Kelley, a Georgia State student, said increasing the minimum wage to $15 might be unfair to those already working for higher wages.
“I wouldn’t be totally against it but I don’t see why you would want it to be $15 because then I feel like that would mean everyone else who is getting paid $15 now for their job and might have a degree of some sort would need to be paid more too and everything will have to increase,” she said.
O’Kelley also said she felt the bill could help working Georgia State students trying to afford living in the city.
“I do know that it costs a little more to live in the city so that may be a good thing for students who may have more money […] they could put extra money toward school or the supplies for school,” she said.