Gov. Edwards pushes for higher minimum wage, business lobby push - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

Gov. Edwards pushes for higher minimum wage, business lobby pushes back

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Governor John Bel Edwards wants a higher minimum wage and equal pay for women, but the pushback is strong from business lobbies.

"Small business owners are the job creators of our state,” said Dawn Starnes, with the National Federal of Independent Businesses.

Edwards wants the state to ignore the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and set its own. The governor went before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on Thursday to push for a bill to raise the minimum wage to $8 in Louisiana come January 2017 and to $8.50 the following year.

"This light increase directly helps the problem of childhood poverty in Louisiana because we know 80-percent of the minimum wage earners in our state are women, many of whom have children at home that they are supporting and raising,” the governor said.

Edwards and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson, D-New Orleans, said it is time to make family values more than political rhetoric.

"We all campaign and talk about valuing families, and family values, but do we in fact put the policies in place to support those families, so that they can sustain themselves,” said Carter-Peterson.

"I think it's a modest but meaningful increase, and I would point out that our neighbor to the north has an $8 minimum wage,” the governor stated.

Business interests said it would hurt more than help.

“The ripple-effect is proven when government puts its finger in the economy there is a ripple effect,” said Starnes.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is a strong opponent of the proposed minimum wage hike.

"We just feel like the market should determine the wage that is paid to employees, and that employers should be in control of that decision,” said Renee Amar, Director of the Small Business Council for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, known as LABI.

Edwards is also pushing for equal pay for women in the private sector.

"We pay women in Louisiana 65 percent of what we pay men,” said Sen. J.P. Morrell.

Morrell is author of SB 254 which would make it state law that all employees, regardless of gender, get equal pay for equal work whether in government or the private sector. But opponents say it's not necessary given the laws already in place.

"Louisiana already has an equal pay statute on the books, as well as there are several federal statutes that say employers have to pay men and women equally for the same job that they do. Sen. Morrell's bill greatly expands how they define that job, into what they consider comparable work rather than equal work,” said Amar.

Morrell said his proposed new law would have more teeth, and could lead to litigation against employers who flout the law. 

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