This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A proposal to raise Utah's minimum wage to $12 an hour was quickly jettisoned in the Utah Legislature for at least the third year in a row.
HB195 couldn't clear the first hurdle in getting out of the House Business and Labor Committee on Thursday, and was tabled on an 8-3 vote.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Millcreek, called for raising the minimum wage from the current federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour to $12 for workers over 16 years of age. It also would set a minimum wage of $5 an hour for "tipped" employees, who know have a minimum of about $2.80 hourly. Future increases would be tied to inflation under the bill.
"The time has come to look at this and really take it seriously," Hemingway said. "We have a lot of people out there who can't afford to live. We're very concerned about the homeless but a lot of these [minimum-wage workers] are one paycheck away from homeless."
Candace Daly, of the National Federation of Independent Business, spoke against the bill, saying it would cost jobs and hurt small businesses. She pointed to job declines in Seattle after that city raised its minimum wage, with an eventual target of $15 hourly.
Using government statistics, Hemingway attempted to dispel the myth that most minimum-wage workers are teenagers relying on summer jobs for some extra cash. The reality is that a majority of those poverty-level workers are aged 20 to 34 and there are 132,000 of them in Utah's workforce, he said. At the rate of $7.25 an hour they would have to work two full time jobs to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in Utah.
Barbara Muñoz of the Community Action Partnership of Utah said many of the struggling minimum-wage earners are single mothers. A decent wage would not only help these impoverished families, but save the government costs in public assistance and other aid programs, she said.
Jean Hill, of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, said a fair wage is also good for business and society in general.
"A living wage encourages business ethics," Hill said. "A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice."
Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, said, "I wonder how people exist on $7.25 an hour." A small business owner, Pitcher was the only Republican on the committee to vote for the bill.