Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Monday, November 13, 2006
Contact: Margaret Justus, 713-236-0306

Sen. Ellis Files Bill to Raise Minimum Wage

Measure Would Also Track Minimum Wage to Inflation

AUSTIN -- Today, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) filed Senate Bill 95 which will raise the minimum wage in Texas to $7.15 an hour in two steps and allow for future increases based on inflation.

The bill would add $1 an hour to the current minimum wage of $5.15 on Sept. 1, 2007, and a second $1 an hour on Sept. 1, 2008. After that, the state minimum wage would rise with the cost of inflation.

“The minimum wage is a poverty wage, and that’s unacceptable,” Senator Ellis said.

According to a recent non-partisan Pew poll, 83 percent of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour. Twenty-eight states have taken the initiative to raise their hourly wage minimums, including all six that considered the issue in the Nov. 7 election.

“A decent minimum wage increase would benefit Texas in many ways. It would bring self-sufficiency to some families who work multiple jobs and allow them to reduce or eliminate reliance on public benefits. It would spread the buying power in our economy. Most importantly, it would bring a greater measure of dignity to all who contribute to our state’s productivity,” Senator Ellis said.

“What this bill will clearly not do is cost the state jobs,” Senator Ellis said. “The experience of states that have raised the minimum wage is that a modest minimum wage increase at the level we are discussing does not harm the job market. But a minimum wage increase clearly helps a large number of workers and their families make ends meet and improve their lives.”

Texas AFL-CIO President Emmett Sheppard endorsed Senator Ellis’s bill and said the time for a minimum wage increase is long overdue.

“From the days of the frontier, Texans have fundamentally supported a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but our laws have rarely enforced that principle,” Texas AFL-CIO President Emmett Sheppard said.

“Senator Ellis’s bill would not only help full-time workers whose pay confines them well within the poverty level, but would take the minimum wage issue out of the political arena by enacting a cost-of-living adjustment. Raising the minimum wage is a matter of common decency.”

“A fair minimum wage promotes economic development and rewards hard work. Overall, it’s a win-win,” says Don Baylor, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Public Policy Priorities. The organization’s research establishes that the purchasing power of the minimum wage is at its lowest level since 1955, the public overwhelmingly supports an increase at the level being proposed by Senator Ellis and a higher minimum wage would benefit the economy.

As of October, approximately 523,000 Texas workers, or 5 percent of the workforce, earned less than $6.15 an hour. Another 543,000 Texas workers would benefit from the second year’s increase to $7.15 an hour.

CPPP's research shows that most low-wage workers are adult, female and work full time. The benefits of increasing the wages of these workers would extend far beyond the ability to buy more at the store. Families that can pay for basic necessities can devote more time and resources to the education and health of their children. Those are precisely the investments that produce the biggest long-term rewards in our state.

The federal minimum wage, which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, sets the national wage floor for virtually all workers. A higher Texas minimum wage would supersede the federal minimum within Texas, when enacted.