State Sen. Debbe Leftwich said Wednesday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to hike the federal minimum wage was a victory for working people throughout Oklahoma and across the nation. The measure would increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over a two-year period.
Leftwich, co-chair of the Senate Business and Labor Committee, said the measure was long overdue, and said she planned to file similar legislation in Oklahoma.
“It has been more than ten years since minimum wage has been increased. Many Oklahomans are working two jobs and still can’t make ends meet,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “These hard-working men and women and their families deserve a living wage.”
Leftwich said the phase in of her minimum wage bill would mirror that contained in the federal version. It would call for increasing the minimum wage to $5.85 an hour 60 days after it is signed into law, and it then would increase to $6.55 one year later. In 2009, the minimum wage would be increased to $7.25 an hour.
“I also think we need to consider tax credits for our small businesses,” Leftwich said. “I think this is something that is extremely important to the business community.”
Leftwich noted three states bordering Oklahoma already have a minimum wage that exceeds the current federal rate. Colorado has a minimum wage of $6.85, followed by Missouri at $6.50 an hour and Arkansas, which has a state minimum wage of $6.25 an hour.
“If those states can do it, then so can we,” Leftwich said. “I hope the federal bill will make it all the way through the process. Likewise, it is high time that the State Legislature took a stand for working Oklahomans.”