Raising the minimum wage would help Mississippi workers

Published 1:17 pm Monday, July 10, 2006


Recently in Washington D.C., the Senate failed to pass an increase in the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has remained at $5.15 an hour since 1997. The legislation would have raised that rate from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour in 70-cent increments over the next three years. While individual states may set their own minimum wage, Mississippi’s remains at $5.15 an hour.

The mere fact that our cost of living increases year to year, I would expect our Government to enact at least a cost of living adjustment for minimum wage workers. As it stands right now, in the last year we have seen drastic increases in gas prices, increases in energy services and imminent increases in insurance. People working for minimum wage will have difficulty handling these growing expenses.

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If we can’t increase the minimum wage substantially, we should look to incorporate at least a small increase with other programs such as the Earned Income Tax credit (EITC). The EITC rewards low-wage work by reducing the taxes that are paid on earnings. The bottom line of the program is that for low-wage workers, the more you work, the more credit you get. Enacting an EITC in Mississippi could help induce individuals to move from welfare to work, could help bring low-wage workers over the poverty line and could help lift more children out of poverty.

At the Federal level, I hope to see legislators continue to push for an increase in the minimum wage. Americans deserve a raise. At the state level, I hope our legislature will seriously look at making adjustments to the minimum wage and other programs to help the working people of Mississippi.

Senator Kelvin E. Butler (D)