Bill to Raise Texas Minimum Wage Divides Lawmakers

There is a renewed push to pump up the Texas minimum wage, but the bill faces an uncertain future after a divisive hearing this week, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

The legislation pushed by State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) would raise the starting pay from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. At its first hearing this week before the House International Relations and Economic Development committee, there was support from labor unions, which feel the state's buying power has been diminished by inaction. And big businesses show it can be done.

"Walmart raised pay to $11 an hour. Target? Twelve dollars. Costco? Fourteen dollars," René Lara with the Texas AFL-CIO testified.

But business leaders say raising the minimum wage would be a job killer.

Annie Spilman, who heads the Texas chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business says profit margins these days are razor thin, and raising the starting pay would hurt those getting their first job. Those, she says, are the jobs that would be eliminated first by employers.

"If they are forced to increase wages here, they'll have to cut back," she says. "They're not going to hire the young person who is trying to enter the workforce."

In Texas, 196,000 workers earned at or below the minimum wage in 2017. Vance Ginn with the Texas Public Policy Foundation said the median hourly wage was $17.39.

"Research shows that Texas could lose one-million full-time jobs if the minimum wage was raised to $15 per hour - more than any other state."

And the committee's vice chair, State Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock), says the writing is already on the wall.

"We’ve all seen grocery stores now. You can check out on your own. That's something that wasn't available. Artificial intelligence, whatever you want to say, does exist and those jobs are being replaced."

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