Parties pick sides on $15 minimum wage

(Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Republicans and Democrats are staking their positions a proposed constitutional amendment that would gradually boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the state.

Democrats argue the amendment would guarantee a livable wage for all Floridians, while Republicans fear it would kill small businesses and eliminate jobs.

Florida’s minimum wage is expected to rise 9 cents next year, going from $8.56 an hour to $8.65.

But if approved, the proposal, known as Amendment 2, would increase the state’s minimum wage — currently $8.56 an hour — to $10 on Sept. 30, 2021, and incrementally increase the rate each year until reaching $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.

“What Amendment 2 is about is a living wage,” said state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami.

But Republicans call the amendment deceptive.

“Amendment 2 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

They argue it’s small businesses that stand to lose out.

“Amendment 2 will destroy hundreds of small businesses across Florida and kill the jobs they provide for Florida families,” Gruters said.

Restaurants are projected to see some of the biggest costs.

The amendment would raise tipped workers' hourly wages from $5.54 to $11.98 over the next six years.

Restaurateur John Horne said that even though his workers make more than minimum wage after tips, he’d still have to pay them more per hour.

“It will increase the payroll at one store over $617,000,” said Horne, who owns Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Bradenton.

But labor unions argue the wage hike will pay for itself through increased spending.

“It puts all kinds of expendable cash into the marketplace. It allows workers who have not been able to fully participate in our economy to fully participate,” said Dr. Rich Templin with the Florida AFL-CIO.

RELATED: Florida $15 minimum wage amendment poised to pass despite opposition

State economists have estimated a $15 minimum wage would increase labor costs on Florida businesses by $540 million a year.

Amendment 2 is polling between 63% and 67% support, well above the 60% threshold needed for passage.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.