By John Seewer
TOLEDO, OHIO: Ohio’s minimum wage is increasing again and with it should come a boost to about 300,000 low-wage earners, according to one policy group’s estimate.
The minimum wage rose 10 cents to $7.95 per hour at the start of the new year. For tipped employees, the new minimum increased 5 cents per hour to $3.98.
The increases were mandated by Ohio voters who in 2006 approved an amendment to the state constitution that links the minimum wage to inflation.
The Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers rose 1.5 percent during the period used to calculate wage increases. A year ago, Ohio’s minimum wage jumped 15 cents at the beginning of 2013.
Ohio is one of 13 states raising the minimum wage at the beginning of the year, according to the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute. Most of those states, like Ohio, have automatic increases to adjust for inflation.
The group estimates that 330,000 workers in Ohio will benefit directly from the wage hike.
How that will impact the state’s economy is debatable.
The Economic Policy Institute says the wage increase will increase Ohio’s economic growth by $38 million, but others including some business associations counter that higher minimum wages force businesses to raise prices or cut hours or jobs for workers.
Ohio’s new minimum would earn a full-time employee $16,500 a year.
“This is not nearly enough to achieve a livable wage for many workers but any and all upward pressure on wages is better than the stagnant wages we have seen,” Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga said in a statement.
The powerful labor union helped bring about the vote in Ohio that bound the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.
The wage for employees at small companies and 14- and 15-year-olds is tied to the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25.
President Barack Obama has been pushing Congress for much of the last year to raise the federal minimum wage.
Labor unions, Democrats and other worker advocacy have been staging protests with fast-food workers in big cities to draw attention to the issue.