BY: Citizens Count
Sen. Donna Soucy is sponsoring a 2018 bill that would raise the minimum wage for employers who do not offer employer-sponsored health benefits.
The bill, SB 554, would also gradually raise the minimum wage for employers that do offer health insurance.
Details of SB 554
Starting July 1, 2018, SB 554 would raise the minimum wage for employers who do not offer health insurance, from $7.50 to $9 per hour. The minimum wage would continue to increase for those employers every year, topping off at $15 per hour in 2021.
SB 554 also raises the minimum wage for employers who do offer health insurance. Starting July 1, 2019, the minimum wage would increase to $9 per hour. It would continue to increase annually, topping off at $12 per hour in 2021.
To qualify for the lower minimum wage, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums could not exceed 10% of the employee's annual gross taxable income from the employer.
Arguments in favor of SB 554
Supporters of SB 554 note that a full-time employee earning minimum wage is generally eligible for state assistance. That includes health insurance coverage through the state's expanded Medicaid program. Rather than saddle taxpayers with the cost of health care for these low individuals, it is fair to ask employers to chip in more.
Maine also raised its minimum wage to $10 per hour this year. Vermont has a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour, while Massachusetts has a minimum wage of $11 per hour.
Arguments against SB 554
Opponents of SB 554 argue that health insurance is extremely expensive for employers, and paying a higher minimum wage will still be cheaper for many employers than offering health insurance. A higher minimum wage will then discourage employers from offering low wage, entry-level job opportunities.
Opponents of a minimum wage increase also generally argue that minimum wage jobs are not structured to be careers. Instead, minimum wage jobs are intended for students, people looking for extra pocket money, and people looking to enter the workforce.
Do you support a higher minimum wage specifically for employers who do not offer health insurance? Let us know in the comments below.