Texas Lawmakers Make Push to Raise Minimum Wage

Apr 8, 2015

This legislative session, Texas lawmakers are considering seven bills dealing with raising the state's minimum wage.

One of the bills would bring it up from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for an estimated 2.4 million Texans. But there are pros and cons to raising the state's minimum wage.

Garrett Groves with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Austin, is among the strongest supporters of House Bill 1590, one of the seven bills lawmakers considered Tuesday.

Groves supports the bills not just because his research points him in that direction, but also because there is momentum around the country in support of raising the minimum wage. For one thing, private companies are raising their lowest wages. Groves points to McDonald's, Walmart and Target.

But things are not as promising in the Texas state government as they are in the private sector. Groves says "to wait for the entire economy to move may take longer than certainly the individuals making minimum wage can afford to wait."

The minimum wage in Texas is still $7.25. But, in cities like Austin, a "livable wage" is the equivalent of three full-time minimum wage jobs, or 3 x $15,000 a year.

That's why, at Tuesday's hearing, high school administrator Diane Andy from San Antonio testified before lawmakers that the ripple effects of low-paying jobs can be felt even in the classrooms. When parents have two and three minimum wage jobs to make ends meet, "taking time off to come in for a parent-teacher conference is a financial hardship and sometimes threatens their jobs," said Andy.

But Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Dallas) responded at the hearing that arguments like Andy's are wrong. He cited a study from the University of Oregon "that said that Texas would lose 31,000 jobs as a result of the increase from $7.25 to $10.10."

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) wrote one of the minimum wage bills.

He urged lawmakers Tuesday to pass the bills, but also to shape them through the House and Senate in a way that would let voters have the last word.