Legislation that would sharply increase California's minimum wage and index it to inflation cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
It's doubtful, however, whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign another minimum wage boost a year after he and the Legislature enacted an increase.
The 2013 legislation raises the minimum wage, now $8 per hour, to $9 on July 1, then to $10 in 2016. Brown signed the increase after insisting that the Legislature remove an automatic inflation adjustment.
The new legislation,Senate Bill 935, is being carried by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and is backed by labor unions and advocates for the poor.
Leno told the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee that another boost is needed to stimulate the economy and combat poverty and the decline of California's middle class. Citing Wal-Mart and other employers, Leno said, "We, the taxpayers, are subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country."
Employer groups, particularly those representing restaurants and farmers, lined up against the Leno measure, saying it would raise their costs, make hiring new employees more difficult and doom some small businesses.
SB 935 would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and then $12 in 2016 and $13 in 2017. Beginning in 2018, the wage would be automatically indexed to inflation each year.
It cleared the Senate committee on a party-line 3-1 vote with one Democratic member, Leland Yee, absent. He was in San Francisco to face federal charges stemming from a wide-ranging FBI investigation.