OPINION: Floridians should vote to raise minimum wage

Amendment 2 on Florida’s ballot this year seeks to raise the minimum wage in Florida to $15 per hour, which would support low-income households and generate resources to reinvest in the state’s economy. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Amendment 2 on Floridians’ ballots for the November election seeks to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $10 per hour next year and then increase by $1 for the next five years. This raise would help millions of people find financial stability.

Florida’s current minimum wage — $8.56 per hour — is not enough for someone to live a dignified life, let alone raise a family in the state’s current economy.

Due to Florida’s reliance on tourism, many jobs are low skilled and low wage while the cost of living continues to rise every year. A 2020 report by the United Way of Florida found that rapid population growth and increasing demand for low-cost, urban rental units are leading to a rise in the state’s overall cost of living. 

The report also stated that the problem is rooted in expanding metropolitan areas like Orlando and Fort Myers where there are more high-end resorts and retirement communities than affordable housing.

“Nationwide, households that are severely rent burdened (with rent accounting for more than 50% of their income) are projected to grow by at least 11%, to 13.1 million households, by 2025,” the report stated.

Increasing Florida’s minimum wage would help end this trend, leading to less rent-burdened households. With more money at their disposal, Floridians will have the resources to reinvest in their communities.

While the debate to raise the minimum wage is typically led by the Democratic Party, John Morgan, Florida attorney and key financial supporter of the bill, believes the amendment is actually more of a conservative idea.

During a press conference in Orlando last year, he argued that raising the minimum wage would strengthen the economy in the long run.

“If you put more money in their pockets they don’t get on a bus, they get on a car lot,” Morgan said.

In a 2019 Economic Policy Institute testimony, Ben Zipperer, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explained why raising even the national minimum wage is something that should have been done a long time ago.

“Raising the national minimum wage is well overdue,” he said. “Had the minimum wage kept pace with labor productivity growth since 1968, this year it would be more than $20 per hour.”

At just over one dollar higher than the national average, Florida’s minimum wage is undoubtedly part of this problem. As the third largest state by population, Florida is a good place to start when it comes to increasing the minimum wage.

Opponents including lobbyists for the tourism industry have committed upward of $400,000 to urge Floridians not to vote for Amendment 2, believing that raising the minimum wage would slow Florida’s economic recovery and hurt the people that companies employ. 

These myths have been dispelled for a long time. In 2014, according to the Orlando Sentinel, 600 economists from across the U.S. signed a letter urging politicians to pass legislation raising the federal minimum wage.

“In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market,” they said.

Another common misconception is that raising the minimum wage would hurt small business owners. However, according to a 2015 report by Small Business Advocacy, just over 400,000 or only 21% of small businesses in Florida actually employ people.

According to a 2018 Florida visitor economic impact study by Rockport Analytics, tourism employs over 1.5 million people in the state. That’s over three times the amount of people employed by small businesses. These huge tourist-based companies can undoubtedly afford the wage increase.

Also, California, a state with an economy similar to Florida’s, voted to raise its minimum wage in the same way in 2017, according to California’s Department of Industrial Relations. By the year 2023, California’s minimum wage will be $15 per hour. For the state with the highest GDP and ranking as one of the top 20 states for quality of life, according to the U.S. World and News Report, one could argue that the raise is working out pretty well.

Overall, gradually raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next six years will be good for the long-term health of our state’s economy.

Make sure to vote come Election Day on Nov. 3, and vote yes on Amendment 2 to do your part to ensure a financially secure future for yourself and the rest of Florida.