Governor Agrees to Minimum Wage Hike

For the first time in over four years, the California minimum wage will increase, to $8 per hour over the next year and a half, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced last month.

The current state minimum wage is $6.75 per hour, but will increase 75 cents on Jan. 1, 2007, and an additional 50 cents the following year.

“I have always said that when the economy was ready, we should reward the efforts of California’s hardworking families by raising our minimum wage,” Schwarzenegger told the Los Angeles Times. “This is another sign California is coming back stronger than ever.”

According to the California Federation of Labor, the 50-cent increase will propel California to the fourth-highest minimum wage in the nation, well above the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. Washington, Oregon and Connecticut are the only states that will surpass California’s average when the increase takes place.

Schwarzenegger, who had rejected similar bills in the last two years, finally approved the increase after working with Democratic party officials, leading some to believe that it was a calculated decision to appear more politically moderate in an election year.

“It’s a long time coming, and frankly the reason it’s coming is because this is a political year,” Labor Federation Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski told the Los Angeles Times.

The news will benefit over a million Californians who are currently working minimum wage jobs.

“California’s most vulnerable workers will be getting a larger boost in their pay and quicker than

we had hoped for,” Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) said.

However, not all officials are entirely exuberant about the augmented wage, with some university and student leaders claiming it still doesn’t do enough to make secondary education affordable to everyone.

“Today’s signing of the minimum wage increase is a huge victory won by workers who have fought long and hard to see this day,” UC Student Association President Bill Shiebler stated in a press release. “Yet, it is only a partial solution to the affordability crisis affecting California’s working students and families. Fees are still unaffordable for low-income and middle-income families and financial aid continually fails to meet the needs of Californians.”

Some lawmakers, however, are pleased that the bill did not lock them into annual salary hikes.

“We are happy to see that there is no indexing or cost-of-living increases as part of this package,” Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben told the Times. “This means that any future increases have to be debated and sold on their merits.”