Wyoming Officials Don’t Agree With Report Pushing For Minimum Wage Increase

in News/Economy

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two Wyoming officials do not believe there is a need for a state minimum wage increase despite the fact Wyoming’s minimum wage is below that set by the federal government.

Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association executive director Chris Brown and economist and state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, both had objections about the report.

“I thought the report was a bit simplistic,” Case told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “There are a lot of efforts to try and make compensation certainly more livable, but the report also suggests there aren’t negative effects from raising the wage.”

The Wyoming Community Foundation released a report this week that recommended the state increase its hourly minimum wage from its current level of $5.15 per hour to $12. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

The foundation report also recommended that the state increase its hourly tipped minimum wage from $2.13 an hour to $6.85.

The report stated that Wyoming’s low-wage workers were a majority female, 53%, and parents 63%. More than half of those low-wage workers are over the age of 35.

The report also noted that nearly 30,000 Wyomingites would benefit from an increased minimum wage to $12 an hour.

By raising the minimum wage, the report said that Wyomingites would be closer to earning a living wage and the state would see reduced taxpayer spending on public assistance programs, higher worker morale and productivity and reduced economic inequality for people of color, especially women.

However, Case said that one of the problems with raising the minimum wage is that companies will begin to find ways to cut labor costs and automate jobs, pointing as examples to the use of self-serve kiosks at fast food restaurants or self-check registers at grocery stores.

Brown said that it was a “misspeak” to say that tipped employees are only making $2.13 an hour, as employers are required to ensure any employee earning less than the minimum wage make up that difference through their tips and hourly wages.

“In my experience as a former restaurant owner, tipped employees were making anywhere from $10 to $20 an hour when considering the tips they received,” he said.

Brown and Case also noted that the market sets the minimum wage and that in the current market, not only is no one is paying minimum wage, tipped or hourly, but most employers are paying significantly more.

Brown added that while the Wyoming Food and Lodging Association was not opposed to an incremental increase of the hourly, not tipped, minimum wage over time, a drastic increase could be devastating to some businesses.

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