January 4, 2012
Even before Occupy Wall Street was set up in New York's Zucotti Park, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, was angling for a bill that would adjust California's minimum wage to the cost of living. After a similar bill got stuck in the Assembly appropriations committee last year, he's trying again: Alejo introduced AB 1439 Wednesday, which will first head to the Assembly Labor Committee this spring.
"We are facing the largest gap between upper- and lower-income Californians in at least 30 years,” Alejo said in a statement. “California has one of the widest income gaps in the nation."
The bill would provide an annual adjustment to minimum wage based on the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index, accounting for inflation and living expenses.
“I support economic development tools. But it’s not enough to create jobs and promote full-time employment," Alejo said. “We need economic stimulus. Raising the minimum wage is the most direct way to put money in the pockets of people who will spend it the fastest.”
Spokesperson Sasha Horwitz dismisses critics who contend increased minimum wage discourages hiring. "Any time lower wage workers have more money in their pocket they’re going to spend it right away," he says. "That’s money that goes right back into the economy and helps everybody locally."
There is no automatic adjustment to the state's minimum wage today, which requires the Legislature to approve an increase. The most recent increase to $8.00/hour took effect Jan. 1, 2008; the earliest Alejo's annual adjustment could take effect, if the bill passes this year, is Jan. 1, 2014.