Stingy senators block pay to poor
A Times Editorial
Published January 27, 2007
When U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez was speaking on the Senate floor about a bill that would put certain limits on offshore drilling in the gulf, he worried aloud about the toll high energy bills were taking on "struggling families who sit around the kitchen table to find the budget busted by yet ever-increasing energy costs."
But the compassion the Florida Republican had for the state's financially strapped families now seems to have faded. Martinez, who is also chairman of the Republican National Committee, has joined with other members of his party to block an increase in the federal minimum wage unless billions of dollars in tax breaks for small businesses are part of the deal.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 54 to 43 to advance a wage bill that did not include the tax breaks for business. It was six votes short of what was needed, with Martinez part of the opposition.
It has been 10 years since the federal minimum wage has been raised. It now stands at $5.15 per hour, or $10,712 per year - a wage so paltry that it puts a family of three more than $4,000 under the poverty line. In that same period, Congress has raised its own pay by more than $30,000.
The move to raise the minimum wage by $2.10 per hour has been repeatedly stymied by Republicans who claim it will hurt small business owners and reduce employment opportunities. But these claims are easily rebutted by the facts. In states where there is already a higher minimum wage, employment in small businesses actually increased by 9.4 percent between 1997 and 2003.
Floridians approved a state constitutional amendment raising the state minimum wage in 2004. Martinez is out of step with his constituents and the rest of the nation.
[Last modified January 26, 2007, 21:02:28]
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