Texas lawmakers are set to vote this week on a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, a step toward what’s known as the “living wage” — a policy that would help lift millions of people out of poverty.
The measure, which would not affect the roughly 2 million employees of food-service companies who already make the minimum wage, is expected to pass the state House and Senate.
A spokesman for Republican Gov.
Greg Abbott said in a statement that he believes the bill would “bring economic security to families and help create jobs for Texans.”
The minimum wage bill was introduced in February by Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat.
In an interview with Fox News last month, Whitmire said his aim is to raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2022, a goal he said he was willing to “fight tooth and nail” to achieve.
The bill is backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit group that helps craft state policies, and the National Restaurant Association, which has pushed for a minimum wage increase in recent years.
A recent survey by the Associated Press found that a majority of Texans supported increasing the state income tax by a flat $15 per hour, as well as the sale of cigarettes, alcohol and other tobacco products.
The poll, however, found that just 14 percent of Texans support a $10 minimum wage.
“The reality is that, if we want to see people who are struggling to get by and make ends meet, it’s not enough just to raise their pay to $9 an hour,” said Jason Richwine, president of the Texas Restaurant Association.
“We need to make sure that the people who need the help the most, the people that need the best support, get the help they need.”
The bill would also set up a task force to create a statewide minimum wage fund that would be used to boost salaries and improve benefits.
The task force, which is composed of representatives from the Texas Retail Merchants Association, the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops and other business interests, will be headed by Sen.-elect John Whitmer.
Whitmer said he believes that the proposal will have bipartisan support, and he has been working with lawmakers to reach out to other business groups to support it.
“I think it’s going to have a real strong bipartisan consensus,” Whitmer told Fox News.
The proposal, he added, “has a real opportunity for people to be more effective at their jobs.”
In April, Gov.
Abbott signed into law a $6.5 billion package of $300 million in economic stimulus that included a $30 million boost to the Texas economy, including $2.5 million in a $5.5-per-hour increase in the state sales tax and $10 million for schools.
That package included a minimum $15 wage.
The state is the largest in the nation to pay employees a living wage, with nearly 20 percent of the workforce earning more than $15.
Abbott has proposed a $1.9-per to $2-per increase in sales taxes for workers who make $15 or more a year, and has proposed another $100 million for unemployment benefits and $100 billion in additional funds for the Texas Housing Authority.
The Texas Retail Federation, a national trade group, has said that the minimum-wage proposal is an attack on consumers, who “have little leverage” in the workplace.
The Retail Federation said the bill is a direct attack on a “workers’ right to make decisions about their own livelihood.”
In response to the $10 increase, Texas retailers have been trying to convince workers to consider a different option, such as the $15-an-hour minimum wage proposed by President-elect Donald Trump.
The retail industry has long been pushing for higher wages, and some of its most successful efforts have come from grocery chains.
Walmart in 2017 raised its minimum wage for full-time employees to $13.50 an hour.
Wendy’s last year introduced a $16-an “hour minimum” for fast-food workers, and Wendy’s said that it’s committed to hiring 25,000 workers by the end of 2021.
In 2017, Wendy’s raised its hourly wage to a new $12 per hour.
Walmart also announced a $2 billion investment in its Austin store and said it will expand its online grocery business.
Wendy is one of many retailers that have recently announced that they will raise wages.
The Chicago Board of Trade, the nation’s largest city’s largest grocery chain, announced last week that it will raise its hourly wages by $2 to $4 an hour and said that its workers will be able to earn $15 by 2022.
And Costco said it would raise its wage by $10 to $12 an hour this year and will continue to increase it to $16 an hour over the next several years.