Fight continues over increasing Ohio’s minimum wage

Ohio Statehouse News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For the second General Assembly in a row, State Representative Brigid Kelly pitched her idea to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, Wednesday.  

Her bill was essentially ignored by the GOP controlled legislature during the previous General Assembly which came to a close at the end of 2018. It was given the mandatory single hearing and never brought up again.  

At the time, her bill had proposed increasing the minimum wage by steps over several years in order to meet the $15 benchmark; a benchmark that was not randomly chosen out of a hat, according to Kelly.  

Kelly cites the National Employment Law Project as the source of dire portents for what kind of wage would be needed to be livable in the near future.  

“By 2024, the National Employment Law Project says that, people are going to need about 15.73/hour,” said Kelly.  

Kelly admits, the National Employment Law Project does lean to the left, so she also cites the National Low Income Housing Coalition which reported the Fair Market Rent (FMR) in Ohio for a two-bedroom apartment is roughly $818.  

One way to ensure that you don’t take on more than you can handle financially is to limit how much your housing costs to 30% of your income. That would require a household to earn at least $32,728 annually to afford such an apartment and still have money to meet other needs.  

When you divide the annual income needed by the number of weeks in the year (52), then by the number of hours worked in a week (40), you reach an hourly housing wage which comes out to $15.73 per hour.  

And that is for the current FMR, not what it will be in 2024.  

Kelly says, raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit families, communities, and small businesses.  

“It’s also good for taxpayers because when people can make a decent living, it means they can take care of themselves, they can take care of their family’s and they’re less dependent on other forms of assistance,” said Kelly.  

Her current bill also removes caps from local municipalities and would allow them to raise the minimum wage in their communities beyond the $15 to what they feel is best for the people living in their areas.  

Right now, the state does not allow cities, towns, municipalities that kind of freedom despite being a home rule state. We’ve seen the same lack of home rule with ordinances for plastic bags, guns, and a host of other issues.  

Because Kelly’s bill was rejected two years ago, and because the issue was not addressed in the first year of the current General Assembly (which is still controlled by the GOP), a group of citizens decided to stop waiting for lawmakers to solve this problem.  

This is not something that they have been seeking for a short period of time. Calls for a $15 minimum wage have been circulating for years.  

The group, called Ohioans For Raising the Wage, decided to first get an idea of what people like them would be willing to accept.  

According to James Hayes, a member of the group, their polling suggests Ohioans would be willing to vote for a $13 per hour minimum wage to be in place by 2025; so that is what they are trying to put on the ballot through a constitutional amendment.  

Back in November of 2006, the voters of Ohio passed a similar constitutional amendment that set the increase to the state minimum wage to be based on the Consumer Price Index that would increase it to meet inflation.  

This new constitutional amendment would keep that increase moving forward, after increases of around $0.85 over five consecutive years from 2021-25. This would take the minimum wage from $8.70 to around $13 per hour with a bump for inflation in January 2026.  

When faced with the fact that the constitutional amendment is $2 less and takes 2 years longer to implement than the bill, Hayes acknowledged his understanding that it may not be good enough especially since the changes do nothing to alter the increase based on inflation which has failed to keep wages on pace with the cost of living since 2006.  

“It’s clear that workers need even more, but when we polled Ohioans across the state there was overwhelming support for raising the wage to 13 by 2025,” said Hayes. “So, we feel like that’s as good a place as any to start.”  

Ohioans For Raising the Wage are not waiting for lawmakers to figure this one out. They have already filed their constitutional amendment with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and expect to hear back from them by Monday if their language is approved.  

If it is, the next step will be submitting it to the Ballot Board so it can verify that it follows the one-subject rule.  

Approval at that stage then opens the door to possibly getting it on the Presidential General Election ballot in November 2020. For that to happen they would need to gather nearly 443,000 petition signatures from valid registered voters and submit them to the Ohio Secretary of State by July 1st.  

One way or another it appears the fight over a $15 minimum wage has entered into another stage; gone are the days of simply calling on lawmakers to do something to help the people in Ohio who make the least; the people (at least some of them) are rising up and taking matters into their own hands. 

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