(CALMATTERS) – Due to skyrocketing inflation rates, California’s minimum wage for all employers will likely rise to $15.50 an hour starting Jan. 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said Thursday.
The announcement came during the administration’s preview of an $18.1 billion inflation relief package Newsom will likely discuss in more detail today, when he unveils a revised version of his January budget proposal — and it supercharges a debate already primed to intensify in a key election year.
Also Thursday, supporters of a proposed ballot measure to raise California’s minimum wage to $18 per hour announced having submitted more than 1 million signatures — far more than the about 623,000 required to land it on the November ballot.
- Joe Sanberg, the Los Angeles investor behind the proposed ballot measure: “Tacking 50 cents onto the current minimum wage doesn’t come close to making ends meet for working families. We need a living wage of $18 per hour to keep pace with inflation so that working people and their families can afford food and a place to live without having to take on second and third jobs.”
- California’s current minimum wage is $15 per hour for employers with at least 26 workers and $14 per hour for employers with fewer workers, though that was set to increase to $15 on Jan. 1.
- But an inflation rate above 7% triggers a requirement that the minimum wage also rise at a faster rate — meaning all employers would have to pay $15.50 starting Jan. 1, said Keely Bosler, director of the state Department of Finance. She said the state expects to finalize inflation numbers in July.
While many labor unions cheered the announcement — “Increasing the minimum wage at this time of spiking prices is a just and urgently needed measure,” said David Huerta, president of SEIU California and SEIU-United Services Workers West — some small business owners said it could further impede California’s economic recovery.
- John Kabateck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business California: “We recognize this is the law but this has the opposite effect on the people they’re trying to help.”
- Ironically, Newsom on Thursday proclaimed May “Small Business Month” in California.
Newsom’s proposed $18.1 billion relief package also includes:
- Checks of as much as $1,500 for hospital and nursing home workers, which could rise to $2,000 with a workplace match.
- $2.7 billion in rent relief for qualified tenants who applied for state or local assistance before March 31.
- $1.4 billion to help Californians pay past-due utility and water bills.
- $304 million to extend soon-to-expire federal subsidies for about 700,000 middle-income residents enrolled in Covered California, the state’s health care marketplace.
- $157 million to waive fees for families attending state-subsidized child care or preschool programs.
- And about $12.7 billion to send as much as $800 to every eligible registered vehicle owner in the state, make public transit free for three months and pause the diesel gas sales tax for a year — essentially the same rebate plan Newsom unveiled in March to lukewarm reception from state lawmakers. (The Legislature’s nonpartisan financial analyst examined the pros and cons of Newsom and lawmakers’ various gas relief plans in a Thursday report.)