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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues Biden over minimum wage hike for federal contractors

Attorney General Ken Paxton waves to the crowd during the Texas Republican Party's convention in San Antonio in 2018.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Attorney General Ken Paxton says a mandatory minimum wage for federal contractors is federal overreach that would harm Texas' economy.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration over a mandatory increase to the minimum wage for federal contractors that the White House implemented late last month.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Victoria, Paxton alleges the executive order raising contractors' minimum wage to $15 per hour is federal overreach that would harm the state’s economy.

The current minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 and has been in place for more than a decade.

The states of Mississippi and Louisiana are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which names U.S. Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh and the department’s Acting Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Jessica Looman, as defendants.

“In pursuit of partisan political objectives, Defendants are unilaterally attempting to impose a radical policy — a dramatic and rapid increase in the minimum wage for federal contractors — with little apparent regard for the widespread havoc on the economy that will result,” the complaint states.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

In a statement last month touting the wage increase, Biden said the measure would affect nearly 70,000 federal workers and close to 300,000 employees of federal contractors.

“This increase will provide those workers and their families a little more breathing room. And because we know that higher wages boost productivity and mean lower job turnover, these orders will allow the government to do its work better and faster,” Biden said. “These workers benefiting from these actions are critical to the functioning of the federal government and of our nation, and I’m proud that their wages will begin to reflect that.”

But Paxton, along with the Louisiana and Mississippi attorneys general, argue the move will hinder the economy and that the power to raise the federal wage is solely the responsibility of the U.S. Congress. The wage increase, they argue, will “unavoidably require many businesses to dismiss employees, particularly low-wage employees, or pass the increased costs of retaining those employees onto Texas consumers. This will inevitably result in increased unemployment, inflation, or both,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit comes the same week Paxton announced he was asking a court to halt the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for members of the Texas military forces. Paxton has also filed at least nine lawsuits against the Biden administration related to the White House’s border or immigration policies.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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