Business Groups Fight the Minimum Wage Amendment, but May Be Losing the Battle

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Business groups are stepping up the heat to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to raise Florida’s minimum wage. Opponents argue the proposal will hurt a state economy already reeling from three hurricanes in less than two months. Supporters believe voters will side with low-wage workers who haven’t had a raise in seven years.

Mac McNeill employs dozens of college students at his bookstore. They start at minimum wage. McNeill says his costs would skyrocket $100,000 a year if a proposal to raise the minimum wage by a dollar passes, and he’d have to cut benefits.

“It would definitely increase everybody’s costs in the state. Somewhere along the line, they have to pass that on.”

Opponents to the wage hike argue by boosting their pay by a buck, many low-wage workers would lose eligibility for food stamps and subsidized healthcare and end up worse off.

Supporters of the wage hike say that’s the stupidest argument they’ve ever heard. John Podesta was working for the Clinton White House seven years ago, the last time the federal minimum wage went up.

“To suggest that keeping people in poverty so that they can stay on public welfare programs is a sound public policy, I find shocking.”

Supporters say the $1.00 an hour pay raise has the potential to help two million Floridians when you add in families, and other hourly workers who’d likely see a bump in pay too, but opponents argue business can’t absorb the nearly half-a billion dollar cost, especially on the heels of three hurricanes.

Rick McAllister represents the Florida Retail Federation and says, “This is not the time to saddle small businesses, to saddle our economy, to saddle our state with new and additional costs that’s going to make that recovery, in fact going to make our future that much more difficult.”

It could be a tough argument to win. Recent polls show more than 80 percent of voters think it’s time the state’s lowest-paid workers got a raise. Supporters speculate interest in the Minimum Wage Amendment will bring more blue-collar workers to the polls in November. That could help the John Kerry camp in Florida.