Delaware lawmakers give final approval to $15 minimum wage

Newark Post | by Randall Chase

The Democrat-led state House voted along party lines Thursday to give final approval to a bill raising Delaware’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

Democrats approved the measure after defeating half a dozen Republican amendments, including proposals to allow small businesses and nonprofits to pay 85 percent of the minimum wage and to require the controller general’s office to submit annual reports regarding the fiscal impact of the wage increases on the state budget, and on the broader effects on the state economy.

Democrats also rejected a proposal by one of their own party members, Rep. Sherae’a Moore of Middletown, to delay each of the annual wage increases for one year for businesses employing 20 or fewer workers.

The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. John Carney, who is expected to sign it. The bill was one of the legislative priorities for several left-leaning progressives who were elected last year and were able to get veteran Democrats to sign on to their cause.

“In the last 15 years, we’ve made 15 attempts to raise the minimum wage. Only three of them bore fractional (fruit),” said Wilmington Democrat Rep. Gerald Brady, chief House sponsor of the bill.

Republicans, meanwhile, warned that the wage increases could have unintended increases, including small businesses shutting down, people losing jobs, consumers paying higher prices, and some low-wage workers losing more in state assistance for expenses such as rent and child care than they will gain in income.

“The dialogue … has not been about empirical evidence, has not been about statistics, has not been about projections and analysis,” said Rep. Bryan Shupe, a Milford Republican, whose amendments to require studies of the fiscal and economic effects of the wage increases were shot down by Democrats.

“I really believe that instead of having a discussion on numbers and analysis, this was more of a political agenda,” he said. He added that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had concluded that a nationwide minimum wage of $15 would result in more people losing their jobs than would be lifted out of poverty. The CBO issued a report earlier this year indicating that moving to a $15 minimum wage by 2025 would lift about 900,000 people out of poverty but would result in 1.4 million fewer jobs.

Delaware’s current minimum wage is $9.25 per hour. The bill increases the minimum wage by 13.5 percent to $10.50 effective Jan. 1, followed by similar annual double-digit percentage increases to $11.75 per hour in January 2023, $13.25 per hour in January 2024, and $15 per hour in January 2025.

Legislative analysts estimate that the bill will cost taxpayers an additional $3.7 million in fiscal 2024 for state employee wages, not counting resulting salary and wage compression issues.

Among Newark-area legislators, Democrats Paul Baumbach, David Bentz, John Kowalko, Eric Morrison, Ed Osienski and Madinah Wilson-Anton voted for it. Republicans Michael Ramone Michael Smith voted against it.

The bill was approved by the state senate earlier this year. All four of the Newark-area senators – Democrats Stephanie Hansen, David Sokola, Bryan Townsend and Jack Walsh – voted in favor. Walsh was the lead sponsor of the bill.

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