WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said that she supports raising minimum wage in the state of California to $26 an hour, adding that she doesn’t think such a hike would hurt small business owners.
Speaking on CNN’s “Crossfire,” the California Democrat disagreed with Republican congressmen looking to keep minimum wage the same, or in one case, to be abolished as a whole.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said on the show that the national minimum wage “should be left where it is,” and definitely not raised. He added that if “states want to increase it, or cities,” then they should have that opportunity at the local level.
One Republican congressman has called for an abolishment of minimum wage completely, with Sen. Tom Coburn saying, “I don’t believe there ought to be a national minimum wage. That’s my position.”
A March Bloomberg national poll on the subject found that 69 percent of Americans support raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, with 23 percent disagreeing.
But Lee — who noted that she was a small business owner of a 300-plus person company prior to coming to Congress — said that minimum wages need to be increased significantly.
“In California, more than likely, from what I remember, a living wage – where people could live and take care of their families, and move toward achieving the American Dream was about $25, $26 an hour.”
Citing “regional factors,” Lee said she would “absolutely” support raising the state’s minimum wage to more than triple what it is today. She added that she does not think it would affect unemployment or hurt small business owners.
“Trust me, believe you me, you would have a more productive workforce. You would have people who could afford to live in areas now where they cannot afford to live. You could increase diversity in certain communities where you don’t have diversity, you would have economic parity.”
However, a study published in March found that 38 percent of employers will lay off workers if the minimum wage is increase. The Express Employment Professionals survey found that roughly 54 percent of the human resources professionals said that they would reduce hiring, and 65 percent said they would raise prices on goods and services.
She applauded Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s plans to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Harris responded, saying he hopes California raises its minimum wage so that jobs from the state will pack up and move to his district in Maryland.