CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 15: Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald's corporate headquarters on January 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The protest was part of a nationwide effort calling for minimum wage to be raised to $15-per-hour. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Democratic Ohio Sens. Kent Smith and Hearcel Craig introduce measure to gradually increase state’s minimum wage in $1 increments

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

A bill that would raise Ohio’s minimum wage was rolled out for the first time to the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee Wednesday afternoon during sponsor testimony.

Ohio Sens. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, and Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, introduced Senate Bill 146, which would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage $1 each year until it was up to $15. Under the bill, minimum wage would increase to $12 an hour starting in 2024; $13 starting in 2025; $14 starting 2026; and $15 in 2027.

“From that point forward, the minimum wage would annually adjust based upon the inflation rate,” Smith said in his testimony.

With only Democratic co-sponsors in the Republican supermajority chamber and Statehouse, prospects for the bill are slim. Ohio’s current minimum wage is $10.10 per hour for non-tipped workers and tipped employees earn half the state’s minimum wage, plus tips. This bill would eliminate the tipped worker distinction, automatically increasing their pay to minimum wage.

Eight states have nixed the tipped minimum wage, Smith said.

“Ending the tipped working penalty and creating an economy where workers do not have to work 76 hours a week to cover basic expenses is good for Ohio families,” he said in his testimony.

An Ohioan without children must earn $15.33 an hour to have a living wage in Ohio, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator.

For housing, full-time workers need to make at least $19.09 an hour to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Ohio — a $2.04 increase from last year, according to a joint report from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).

“An artificially low minimum wage has kept too many Ohioans trapped in a cycle of poverty: taking on another minimum wage job, unable to move up, while losing buying power,” Craig said in his testimony. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2027 would give over a million Ohioans a raise that is long overdue while allowing people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Tipped workers

Committee Chair Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, questioned the need to get rid of the tipped worker distinction.

“We all know that the reason we have that difference is because they are getting tips, presumably if their service is good and people are feeling generous,” he said.

He explained how his grandchildren who work in restaurants while going to college earn good tips.

“It has to do with service levels and performance,” Cirino said. “If you are a good wait server, you are going to get good tips.”

Smith responded by saying that while tipped workers are disproportionately young, one in four are over the age of 40.

“Tipped workers are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as non-tipped workers,” he said.

Benefits cliff

Cirino and Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, questioned if raising the minimum wage would cause a benefits cliff, meaning a decrease in public benefits that can happen with a small increase in earnings.

Rulli told a brief story about how he had used to have an assistant deli manager who was a single mom with three kids at home who was a hard worker, so he rewarded her with raises. Eventually, she resigned.

“She started making so much money with me that the state took all her benefits away and she was behind the eight ball,” he said.

Craig said he would look into that issue.

“We’ve got to work on that,” he said.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.

Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.


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