A minimum of fuss

Students earning minimum wage can breathe a little easier now that they will see their wage increase a full dollar. Despite a massive ad campaign against Amendment 5, Floridians overwhelmingly voted in favor of the amendment, which raises the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour.

The measure will begin six months after enactment, with the wage to be annually indexed to inflation thereafter.

The ballot received 71 percent of the vote. The only ballot initiative that garnered a higher vote was a patient’s right to know provision about medical mistakes, with 81 percent of the vote.

Melissa Reilly, a Phyllis P. Marshall Center employee, said she is happy about the raise.

“I voted for it, even though it won’t affect me since I’m already earning above minimum wage,” she said.

Bookstore employee Senetria Hall said, “I think it is a good idea, but what about the people that are left out of it?”

Only workers earning from $5.15 to $6.14 an hour will see an increase in their paychecks. The new wage will result in increased take-home pay of between $700 to $1,000 per year. Tipped workers will also see an increase from $2.13 to $3.13 an hour. The measure includes an automatic cost-of-living adjustment, by which further raises in the statewide minimum wage would occur automatically at the national inflation rate. Florida will be the 13th state to have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $5.15.

Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation said that of 7.4 million Florida workers, only 133,000 will be affected. This relatively small number of people includes farm workers.

USF economic professor Gabriel Picone said the measure will do two things: It will hurt people that do not already have a job, and will help a limited number of people. Few businesses pay near minimum wages, and the ones that do may not hire new employees to offset having to pay higher wages and taxes.

Picone said that in 10 years, this law is going to cause the minimum wage to be way above what many employers are willing to pay, leading to inflation and job loss. However, he does not think the new wage will affect Florida’s economy too much.

“I think more than likely this will have a negligible effect,” Picone said, “It looks good on paper but it will most likely not do anything.”

Political science professor J. Edwin Benton said time will tell how the new law will affect the economy.

“Only with time can we see how things will shake down,” Benton said, “but if it goes badly, we may see another amendment repealing this.”

Opponents predict the measure will drive up prices. According to an economic analysis by the Center for American Progress, the primary way businesses are likely to adjust to these cost increases is to raise their prices by small amounts.

Although unintended consequences may occur such as inflation, unemployment and relocation of companies out of state, the economic analysis shows that these issues are very unlikely to occur to any significant extent. This is because businesses will be able to absorb their cost increases through modest price and productivity gains.

According to the study, employment growth rates in other states that recently increased their minimum wage did not fall. Therefore, the same will most likely happen in Florida.

Even though there is speculation surrounding this issue, Benton believes that not even an economist can really predict what will happen. He thinks the economy might be able to tolerate it. If not, then the state Constitution may be amended once again.