Should the Sunshine State Increase the Minimum Wage to $15?


By Mark Schug, Ph.D.


Voters around the nation have been pushing for increases to the minimum wage.  In fact, minimum wages will increase in 19 states in 2017 including Massachusetts, California, and Arizona.

Arizona is the biggest surprise.  In 2016, a large majority of 58 percent of the electorate voted to raise the Grant Canyon State’s minimum wage to $12. This is the biggest jump among the 19 states and one of the largest one-time increases ever enacted.

Should Florida follow suit?

For many years, the Sunshine State adhered to the federal minimum wage.  This is the policy followed by all the other states in the South.  That all changed in November 2004 when Floridians voted to amend the Florida Constitution by adding a minimum wage provision.  The minimum wage increased to $6.15 in 2005.  Today, it is $8.10.

During the 2016 legislative session, bills were introduced to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.  While both bills failed, it is obvious that the issue is not dead.

From its inception as part of the New Deal in 1933, the minimum wage has been controversial.  The question posed by economists is:  Do the costs of minimum wages outweigh the benefits?

The benefits are visible, immediate, and easily reported by the media.  People who hold minimum wage jobs and people who hold jobs that pay above the current minimum wage, but below the new minimum wage, all get raises.

The costs are less visible and in the future.  Many economists worry about “employment effects.”  That is, will an increase in the minimum wage cause employers to substitute technology for labor, thus hiring fewer people?  Will it encourage more employers to hire workers “off the books” thus avoiding those pesky federal payroll taxes?  What about those people who would be willing to work for something less than the legal wage?  Those folks are priced out of the legal job market.

We will take a “deep dive” into the issues surrounding the minimum in the first session of my course.  Other topics will include Wall Street, international trade, and the economics of the environment.


Professor Schug is currently teaching a four-week course, “Economic Insights into Public Issues” on Mondays from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. The class dates are January 9, 23, and 30; February 6, 2017.


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