As President Obama travels the country — including a stop this week in Ann Arbor — to make his case for a higher federal minimum wage, lawmakers from Ohio and other states are properly seeking to raise wages on their own.
A bill introduced in the Ohio House this week by two Democratic lawmakers would increase Ohio’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — the same wage the President wants nationally — from $7.95. Ohio workers who rely on tips to supplement their income would see their wages rise from $3.98 an hour to $5.05 under the proposal.
It’s doubtful that Congress will agree to a federal wage increase, but the stalemate shouldn’t prohibit Ohio and other states from acting. The Republican-controlled U.S. House will continue its obstructionist ways, but raising the minimum wage on a state level still will help millions of the working poor.
“There are always going to be folks who do critical work, who bust their tails every day — airport workers, restaurant workers, hospital workers, and retail salespeople — who deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work,” Mr. Obama said this week during an appearance at the University of Michigan. “They’re doing necessary jobs. They should be able to make a living.”
Seven states and Washington, D.C., have raised their minimum wages, and legislation that would do so is pending in more than 30 other states. In eight states, interest groups are pushing ballot proposals that would ask voters to raise the minimum wage.
In Ohio, 330,000 workers — nearly 7 percent of the state’s work force — earn the statewide minimum wage or slightly more. Congress last raised the federal minimum wage in 2009.
A higher minimum wage is good for workers and businesses. People who have some spending freedom are better able to feed their families and are more likely to invest in their communities.
The Obama Administration estimates that a higher minimum wage would lift 28 million Americans out of poverty. That is a significant boost for a substantial segment of this country’s people.
Some Republicans in Congress say they would be willing to compromise on some sort of minimum-wage hike, but the proposal appears to lack overall support, especially in the House. Yet President Obama is right to keep the issue at the forefront, if for no other reason than to put pressure on states to act.
Ohio’s legislature should increase the state’s minimum wage. Even in an election year, the measure should not get bogged down in partisan politics.
Ohio continues to be hit hard by the Great Recession. If Congress can’t agree on a higher federal minimum wage, state lawmakers must quickly push one through.