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State Senate Scheduled to Debate Minimum Wage Bill Today

February 12, 2007

The Governor’s plan to raise the minimum wage in South Dakota is scheduled for debate on the Senate floor today, and the measure is getting a thumbs-up from state labor groups. The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously endorsed the idea last week, and now the full Senate is scheduled to debate the bill today. Paul Aylward with the South Dakota AFL-CIO says the legislation is important because South Dakota has some of the lowest wages in the nation.

“There are lots of people in South Dakota that are still making the minimum wage. It hasn’t been raised in ten years. It has not kept up with inflation. In fact, our minimum wage now, when you would adjust it for inflation, is at its lowest rate ever.”

Aylward notes that the increase would also help working women in South Dakota.

“We have some of the largest percentage of working women in the nation and there are a number of those who work in low-wage jobs. So, this should have a significant effect on the working women of South Dakota.”

Opponents say increasing the minimum wage will hurt small businesses and reflect negatively on future salary increases for other employees. Aylward disagrees, saying that hasn’t happened in the past.

“The last time we saw a raise in the minimum wage, actually things got better for low-wage workers. We saw a lower unemployment rate, increased average hourly wages, increased family income and really the decrease in the poverty rates. And when that happens, that money goes back into the economy and it has a tendency to help those small businesses.”

Senate Bill 207 raises the state minimum wage to $5.85 on July 1st of this year, $6.55 by July 2008 and to $7.25 by July 2009.

David Law/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - SD