SD Senate kills minimum wage hike


Tara Bordewyk, Cns

PIERRE – An attempt to raise South Dakota’s minimum wage more than the federal amount failed to pass the Senate State Affairs Committee Feb. 7.

Senate Bill 77, which would increase the minimum wage to $6.25 by April of 2004, provided a three-step system over the next year, which would increase the $5.15 wage to $5.50 in June.

In January of 2004, the wage would would have increased to $5.85 and to $6.25 in April of 2004.

Raising the wage would build a foundation, State Sen. Gil Koetzle, D-Sioux Falls, said, and help families who work for minimum wage.

Single parents with minimum wage full-time jobs are still below the poverty level in the state, he said.

Koetzle said the bill would stimulate the economy since struggling families would spend their wages instead of putting them into savings.

“We could get people off welfare and into work,” Paul Aylward of the South Dakota AFL-CIO said.

Minimum wage is starting pay for beginning workers, Jerry Wheeler of the South Dakota Retailers Association said, and only two-percent of people over 30 are still making minimum wage.

Wheeler said only five states are above the federal minimum wage. He feels the state should follow the federal increases.

Employers are paying for health care and other benefits, he said, some businesses may experience hardships if they have to increase their wages.

“Even if employers aren’t paying it out in wages,” he said, “they’re paying it in benefits.”

David Owen, lobbyist for the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who is concerned that raising the minimum wage would send out the wrong signals to businesses, said that it might seem that the state is trying to control the marketplace.

“The content is right,” he said. “But the device is wrong.”

The committee voted 7-2 to refer the bill to the 41st day. That killed the bill because there are only 40 days in the 2003 legislative session.