|Wyoming minimum wage bill rolled back to federal minimum
The Associated Press - January 30, 2017
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A proposal to raise the minimum wage in Wyoming has been ratcheted back to match the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The amended wage change cleared its first hurdle at the state Legislature on Friday.
The bill would not change much for most Wyoming employees, The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported . But it would no longer make Wyoming tied for the lowest minimum wage in the country among the states that have minimum wages.
Originally, House Bill 140, brought by Rep. James Byrd, D-Cheyenne, would have raised Wyoming's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour for non-tipped employees and $5.50 for tipped employees.
But such an increase was too much for the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, and members amended the bill to simply match the federal wage.
Wyoming's current minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, which can be paid by employers not covered by the federal minimum wage.
Only a small portion of Wyoming workers fall under that wage, a representative of the Department of Workforce Services said, since the vast majority of employers are subject to the higher federal minimum wage.
The state and federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour, and employers are supposed to ensure workers make enough tips to reach the regular minimum wage, or else employers have to make up the difference. The amended bill does not affect the tipped employees' wage.
Byrd said the minimum wage should be at least closer to a wage that would pay for basic living expenses for full-time employees.
"If you work hard at your job 40 hours a week . you should be entitled to some basic necessities," he said.
But the minimum wage increase was opposed by representatives of the state's hospitality and convenience store industries, saying minimum wage is supposed to be an entry-level wage.
They also said that market forces dictate wages, and some entities pay higher than the minimum wage to attract employees.
Chris Brown of the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association said businesses would not be able to absorb the cost of raising the wage by as much as Byrd proposed. Nearly all employers in his industry already fall under the federal minimum wage, he said.
Tom Jones also spoke on behalf of the Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents convenience stores. He said minimum wage jobs are a way to get people started in the workforce.
"We're not causing people to starve," he said.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, every state around Wyoming has a higher state-level minimum wage for non-tipped employees.
Utah and Idaho have matched the $7.25 federal wage; Montana is set at $8.15 for all businesses, except those with less than $110,000 in annual sales, which have a $4 minimum wage; South Dakota is set at $8.65; Nebraska is at $9, and Colorado is at $9.30.
Colorado's minimum wage will increase to $12 by 2020.
In all, 29 states have wages above federal minimum wage, and five states, all in the South, have no minimum wage.
The Labor Committee advanced the wage increase to $7.25 by a 5-4 vote.