The Phoenix Flyer

$15 an hour minimum wage: Both the Biden administration and FL lawmakers push for the increase

By: - March 2, 2022 2:28 pm

Cash. Credit: Svetl. Royalty-free Collection: iStock / Getty Images Plus.

With President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address calling for an overall increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, budget negotiations in the Florida Legislature opened this week with a move to increase that minimum wage.

So far, and in a least certain categories, the Florida House has agreed to an initiative by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, who has pushed the $15 an hour for state workers.

That would include raises for employees in health and human services jobs, such as nursing homes, Medicaid providers, disability centers and other health-related venues.

The negotiations come as the 2022 legislative session is winding down and lawmakers must finalize Florida’s state budget within the next week. It’s clear that the overall state budget will be more than $100-billion.

But a sticking point in the state budget has been over the $15 an hour wage, compared to a state House proposal to increase salaries by 5.38 percent for the overall state workforce to address rising inflation.

State Rep. Bryan Avila announced that the Florida House agreed to the Senate’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for state workers. Credit: Screenshot/Florida Channel

As members of the House met to discuss the health and human services budget, Health Care Appropriations chair Bryan Avila said Tuesday that the House has agreed to the Senate’s offer on the minimum wage increases related to health programs. Avila, a Republican representing part of Miami-Dade County, didn’t offer any specific details during the meeting.

“The House agrees to the Senate position on minimum wage increases to $15 an hour,” Avila said at a budget conference on health-related categories.

Florida’s minimum wage is required by law to increase in increments to $15 an hour by 2026, part of a ballot initiative that Florida voters approved in 2020. But Senate President Simpson decided to move more quickly to get state workers to that $15 wage.

During Biden’s address Tuesday evening, he said, “raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and extend the child tax credit, so no one has to raise a family in poverty.”

State Rep. Allison Tant, a Democrat, told the Florida Phoenix in a phone interview Wednesday that the $15 proposal would boost pay for health care workers, such as caregivers who serve the elderly and people with disabilities.

“And my biggest concern before was I wanted, especially those in the caregiving field, to be paid $15 an hour because I have a child with disabilities, and I know how hard families are struggling to get caregivers to work because they can’t compete with the $15 an hourly wage out there in the real world,” said Tant, a Democrat representing part of Leon County, in the state capital.

“This is a big bonus for helping families, people who are hiring caregivers at home, senior citizens who need to have caregivers.”

Meanwhile, Simpson said earlier in February that the next state budget should reward school personnel, health care workers, and caregivers “who serve Floridians who are sick, elderly or have a disability, and those work with at-risk children in our criminal justice system.”

For instance, the Senate’s spending plan includes $15 an hour for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten instructional personnel, employees at nursing homes and workers at “local certified rape crisis centers.”

It’s not clear if the 5.38 percent initiative will still be in the budget.

Every year, lawmakers must craft a state budget for Floridians that includes education, environment, transportation and infrastructure and myriad other investments.

The House and Senate work together to come up with a final spending plan before the legislative sessions ends in mid-March. The final budget goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who can veto aspects of the budget.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.