91°F
weather icon Clear

Minimum wage bill sparks debate in state Senate committee

CARSON CITY — Advocates of raising Nevada’s minimum wage argued on Monday paying low-wage earners more would help lift them out of poverty and benefit the overall economy by giving them more buying power.

But opponents countered it would mean increased burdens for small businesses and lead to higher prices, job losses and fewer opportunities for young workers to gain work experience.

Senate Bill 106, heard by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor, would raise Nevada’s minimum wage by 75 cents per hour each year until it reaches a minimum of $12 if employers do not offer health insurance and $11 if insurance is provided.

Nevada’s existing minimum wage is $8.25 with insurance and $7.25 without.

“More people than ever are working in jobs that pay too little and offer too few benefits,” said state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas.

She said boosting wages would “put hundreds of millions” of dollars into the pockets of low-wage earners, who will put it back into the economy.

Rachel West, with the Center for American Progress, told lawmakers that $8.25 is “a poverty wage.”

“Every year that lawmakers fail to act, purchasing power continues to shrink as prices rise,” West said.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, citing Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s vision for a new economy, said, “This ‘new Nevada’ needs to include new wages.”

“Nevadans deserve an economy where a hard day’s work earns a decent day’s pay,” Ford said.

Republican lawmakers on the committee and business groups, however, questioned analyses that said job losses or price hikes would be minimal. They also argued small businesses would bear the brunt of the cost.

The bill only pertains to private employers, not state or local governments, a provision noted by state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

“It’s critical to understand that raising minimum wages raises all wages,” said Randi Thompson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

She said locally owned, small businesses will be hurt the most.

“They likely can’t raise their prices, due to competitive factors,” Thompson said. “So what do they do to remain profitable? Reduce working hours, lay off workers, replace cashiers with kiosks. And, yes, close.”

Gino Ferraro, owner of an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas, said he employs 70 people and has a $2 million annual payroll. He said many of his workers earn upward of $60,000 a year, and if Nevada wants to raise the minimum wage, employers should be able to calculate how much workers receive in tips in the calculation.

“We’re supposed to be pro-business in Nevada,” Ferraro said. “I beg of you not to raise the minimum wage.”

No action was taken by the committee.

The Senate proposal is one of two minimum wage bills pending in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. Assembly Bill 175, would impose a gradual increase of $1.25 per hour each year, reaching a minimum of $15 or $14, depending on whether insurance is provided.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 33 jurisdictions are considering increasing the minimum wage in 2017.

Nevada’s existing wage, if insurance is provided, is on par with Idaho and Utah, but lags behind California, Arizona and Oregon.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II to seek two more years in seat

Pahrump resident and Nevada District 36 Assemblyman Greg Hafen II announced this week that he will be seeking that seat in the 2020 election for what will be his first-ever official bid for office.

Wildfire tamed near northern Nye community

Firefighters tamed a 650-acre wildfire — believed to have been started Aug. 7 by lightning — near Nye County’s Gabbs community.

Off-highway grant workshop held in Beatty

Folks from Beatty and the surrounding area learned more about the Nevada Off-Highway Vehicle Program in a workshop conducted at the Beatty Community Center Aug. 12.

Beatty Town Advisory Board honors EMT trainers

Beatty Town Advisory Board members listened to a couple of presentations at their Aug. 12 meeting, but the evening started with a presentation of their own.

California Lottery

No one matched all five numbers and the mega number in the Wednesday, August 14 drawing of the California Super Lotto. The next jackpot will be at least $71 million.

Pahrump expansion to feature Marriott, retail near racetrack

The planned, five-story hotel just outside the gates of the Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club could be a Marriott-brand hotel. The commercial project could get underway by the end of 2019.

Pahrump Purple Heart Day ceremony honors wounded and fallen

National Purple Heart Day is a day set aside for the remembrance and honoring of the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have been injured or lost their lives in service to their country.

Nye County District Attorney’s Report

Editor’s note: The Nye County District Attorney’s Report is provided by the office of DA Chris Arabia. Plans call for it to be provided on a monthly basis as the information becomes available. Duplicate names represent separate cases. See pvtimes.com for a look at recent DA reports.