With multiple Democrats not voting, a California Assembly panel on Wednesday rejected a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage beyond the boost agreed to in 2013.
Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, repeated the arguments that last year drove lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to approve a bill boosting California's minimum wage to $10 a hour by 2016.
Leno's Senate Bill 935 would build on that, pushing the baseline to $13 an hour in 2017 and then allowing the wage to rise along with the cost of living thereafter.
"If we don't support this bill the outstanding question remains: What are we as the state of California going to do about paying poverty wages?" said Leno, who has called last year's legislation inadequate. "The phenomenon of income inequality and wealth inequality only continues to grow."
Business groups warned that Leno's bill could unhinge a faltering economic recovery and asked lawmakers to wait for last year's legislation to take effect. The hike included in 2013's Assembly Bill 10 kicks in on July 1, raising the minimum wage from $8 to $9.
"It is too much, too soon given that AB 10 is just going into effect next week, and we should allow that bill to implement," said Jennifer Barrera, a lobbyist for the California Chamber of Commerce.
That argument resonated with some Democrats on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, the author of last year's minimum wage hike, said Leno's bill would mean reneging on agreements Alejo had made with business interests to not include a cost-of-living adjustment.
"The ink hasn't even dried on AB 10," Alejo said. "You've got to keep your word."
One vote separated the bill from passage. The final tally was 3-2 ( it needed four votes to move on), with Alejo and Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, not voting.
Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:19 p.m. to include the vote total and the fact that the bill was in the Assembly.
PHOTO: Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.