SACRAMENTO, California — The California Senate on Monday approved a plan to again raise the state's minimum wage, lifting it to $13 an hour in 2017, then tying it to the rate of inflation after that.
The proposal by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, comes just two years after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation giving California one of the highest minimum wage rates in the nation. It is currently $9 an hour and will rise to $10 an hour in 2016.
But Leno said that rate, earned by 8 million workers, does not reflect the cost of living in California. He says his plan would bring workers to the federal poverty level by boosting the minimum wage an additional $1 in 2016, to $11 an hour, then rising it to $13 an hour starting in 2017.
"Full-time workers in this state should not be forced onto public assistance simply because they earn the minimum wage," Leno said in a statement.
He pitched the increase as a way to stimulate the economy and ease pressure on publicly funded social services such as subsidized child care, food vouchers and health care for the poor, which are subsidizing wages that have not kept pace with inflation. He said employees who make more will spend more on housing, food and other consumer products.
Senators approved the bill on a 23-15 vote, sending it to the state Assembly. Republicans opposed the legislation that the California Chamber of Commerce has labeled Leno's bill as a "job killer," saying it would lead employers to hire fewer workers and hurt industries such as tourism that rely on minimum wage employees.
Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, said the minimum wage is not intended to support families, but as a "startup wage for kids."
"This wage was made for McDonald's and Burger King, for kids to get involved in a first job," he said.
The minimum-wage increase is part of a broader push this year by legislative Democrats to help the poor. It comes amid a national conversation about whether low-wage workers should be paid more.
In the Assembly, Democrats were pushing for an income tax credit to benefit working poor families, which Brown incorporated in his budget proposal last month. Brown has not said whether he would support another increase to the minimum wage.
Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, noted that women are the most likely to hold minimum wage-paying jobs and are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their families. She said the "notion that minimum wage jobs are just for kids" is not true.