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House committee looks at bill raising Ohio’s minimum wage

The minimum wage in the state would increase to $15 per hour by 2023.
Brigid Kelly 01232020
Ohio state Rep. Brigid Kelly of Cincinnati speaks during a floor debate Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Ohio House of Representatives)

COLUMBUS — The minimum wage in Ohio would increase to $15 per hour by 2023 under a bill pending before a state House committee.

State Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, introduced House Bill 34 last February, but the House Commerce and Labor Committee had its first hearing on the bill this week.

As written, the bill would have increased minimum pay to $12 per hour beginning this past Jan. 1, and then increase yearly by $1 an hour until it reaches $15 per hour on Jan. 1, 2023. If the bill advances, lawmakers likely will need to amend the bill to adjust the start date.

“The promise of America is that it is supposed to be the land of opportunity, where if you work hard, you can succeed and you can get ahead,” Kelly said in her prepared committee testimony. “The bad news is that too many people in Ohio know it doesn’t matter how hard they work. Their families still live, and often struggle, paycheck to paycheck.”

In 2006, voters passed a constitutional amendment mandating Ohio’s minimum wage increase by the rate of inflation every Jan. 1. This year, the minimum wage increased to $8.70 per hour and $4.35 for tipped employees.

A 2019 Policy Matters Ohio analysis found 2 million Ohio workers would benefit from phasing in the minimum wage to $15 per hour — and $7.50 for tipped employees — by 2023.

“It would improve equity and drive economic growth by generating around $8.7 billion in new wages for directly impacted workers,” the group said.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, has argued that the increase is not needed.

"At a time when there are more open jobs than workers to fill the positions, this proposed amendment does nothing to upskill workers to assure they have the training and education that will land them a job paying well above the minimum wage," the chamber's Kevin Shimp wrote in a blog post. "This proposed amendment also ignores the fact that the free market is currently addressing wage issues in our state. Numerous companies ranging from the largest employers to locally owned businesses have independently chosen to raise their minimum wage over the last several years."

Critics also argue that businesses, when faced with mandated new costs, reduce costs elsewhere. That includes reducing worker hours and benefits, and not filling jobs or reducing them.

Under the bill, starting Jan. 1, 2024, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The proposal also allows local jurisdictions throughout Ohio to set a minimum wage higher than the state’s level.

“The good news is this is a problem that can be solved. It doesn’t have to be this way,” Kelly said in her testimony. “Profits and productivity can continue to go up, but wages should, too. By modernizing our minimum wage, more people can earn the opportunity for a better life.

— Story courtesy of The Center Square