Workers, business owners and economists split on $15 minimum wage increase

Workers, business owners and economists split on $15 minimum wage increase

Candidates aren’t the only choices people are seeing on their ballots. There are six amendments that could impact the future of the state. Amendment 2 if approved would raise Florida’s minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2026. And workers, employers and economists are mixed about the increase.

Vincent Sacco, a waiter at Meating Street Seafood and Steakhouse in Port St. Lucie relocated to Florida from New Jersey just three weeks ago. He’s still adjusting to the cost of living.

“I’m still living on the owner's couch at this point,” said Saccio. “The cost of living is what’s ridiculous - that’s what needs to come down. We wouldn’t need to jack up the minimum wage to $15 if a one bedroom apartment wasn’t $1,300.”

Sacco says he’s in favor of an increase to the state’s current minimum wage but uncertain about the overall cost to his industry.

”In this uncertain time in this country of what’s going on and what’s going to happen [businesses] could definitely be affected adversely,” he said.

And his employer, Meating Street co-owner, Pasquale Lamarra agrees.

”Paying someone who is only valued at $10 an hour will take away from the person that deserves $20 or $25 or $30,” said Lamarra. “So the increase will have a negative effect on salaried employees and hourly employees because it will be taking away from the people who truly deserve it because their market value is higher than someone who may just be starting off training and trying to learn the industry.”

At Nina’s Bakery in Jupiter, they too are cautious about the increase.

”I can see how having that boost to the paycheck could be super beneficial,” said Levi Grooms, Nina’s Fresh Bakery cake specialist.

While his boss, owner Nina Tomasik pays employees $13 to $15 an hour, she believes the market should dictate the hourly rate. Not a vote.

”There is no right or wrong answer because every business is so individual,” Tomasik said.

Nicole Anderson is the CEO of Mend, a human resources solutions firm. She says from a budgeting standpoint small businesses will be adversely impacted by a minimum wage increase. Additionally, Anderson says half her business clients who pay their employees minimum wage are split on the increase and from a budgeting stand point there’s no winners.

”I do think that minimum wage needs to go up. However, they’re proposing this after we’ve come through a detrimental year for small businesses. where over 40-percent of small businesses have closed already,” said Anderson. “I do believe that there needs to be a roundtable - a discussion between business owners and low wage workers and trying to figure this out.”

Florida for a Fair Wage, the political committee sponsor of Amendment 2 argues $17,600 dollars per year isn't livable and it's time to "reverse decades of growing pay inequality." More can be read, here: https://floridafairwage.com/ Groups like the Florida Chamber disagrees.

”Forget that we may lose as many as 500,000 jobs, forget all the prices going up on older people on fixed incomes - I think the really harsh part of this amendment passing would be the opportunity to get people into the workforce for the first time,” said Dr. Jerry Parrish, Florida Chamber Foundation chief economist. “How many people can be worth $15 before they ever get their first job? Not that many. Most of us started in some minimum wage job to get some experience.”

The Florida Chamber also is against a minimum wage increase on top of the effects of COVID-19. An increase that’s already 18-percent higher than the federal minimum wage. Neighboring states Georgia and Alabama pay under the federal rate.

“They’re concerned about just existing in the next few months,” said Parrish.

A newly released survey by the Chamber reveals 45.4 percent of business owners are concerned about their ability to operate in the future. The survey can be read, here: https://www.flchamber.com/the-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-floridas-small-business/

Still, Florida for a Fair Wage's website is touting a living wage calculator that estimates a single adult needs to make over $12 to earn a living wage in Florida. The calculator can be found, here: https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/12/locations

We asked WFLX political analyst Brian E. Crowley the likelihood of the amendment passing.

”The minimum wage is complicated especially for small businesses. And much of the business community opposes this. But I also suspect that much of the business community if they were allowed would eliminate the minimum wage all together and that’s not fair either,” Crowley said. “The question really becomes does Florida need a minimum wage for it’s workers to be able to live well in Florida.”

Below is the full list of amendments on the ballot:

Amendment 1: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections

This amendment would change, "Every citizen…" to "Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered. As seen in section 2 article VI of the Florida constitution: https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Constitution#A1S02

According to the Florida Division of Elections, the proposed amendment is not expected to result in any changes to the voter registration process in Florida and will have no impact on state or local government costs or revenue. Full text can be seen here: https://initiativepetitions.elections.myflorida.com/InitiativeForms/Fulltext/Fulltext_1814_EN.pdf

Amendment 2: Raising Florida's Minimum Wage

Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30, 2021. Each Sept. 30 thereafter, minimum wage will increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. Minimum wage increases will revert to being adjusted for inflation annually starting September 30th, 2027.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, state and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels. This proposed constitutional amendment is estimated to have a net negative impact on the state budget. It may result in higher taxes or a loss of government services in order to maintain a balanced state budget. Annual wage costs will be approximately $16 million in 2022, increasing to about $540 million in 2027. Full text can be see here: https://initiativepetitions.elections.myflorida.com/InitiativeForms/Fulltext/Fulltext_1801_EN.pdf

Amendment 3: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet

Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law effective January 1, 2024.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, it is likely the proposed amendment will result in additional local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference estimates combined costs will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles occurring in even-numbered years after the amendment's effective date, with the costs for each of the intervening years dropping to less than $450,000. Full text can be see here, https://initiativepetitions.elections.myflorida.com/InitiativeForms/Fulltext/Fulltext_1907_EN.pdf

Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments

Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections. All amendments still need 60-percent of support to pass.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, it is likely the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot; number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Full text can be seen here: https://initiativepetitions.elections.myflorida.com/InitiativeForms/Fulltext/Fulltext_1908_EN.pdf

Amendment 5: Limitations on Homestead Property Tax Assessments; increased portability period to transfer accrued benefit

If you’re a Florida resident you can qualify for a homestead exemption on your primary home and then if you’ve lived there for few years and you decide to move to another home in Florida you can transfer your benefit which you’ve built up over time at the first home by having homestead there to the second home.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, amendment 5 would increase from two years to three years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021. Full text can be see, here: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/10-98.pdf

Amendment 6: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities

According to the Florida Division of Elections, amendment 6 provides that Florida's homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to the veteran's surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021. Full text can be seen here: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/10-99.pdf

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