A minimum wage increase has passed the state Senate. Debate on the floor this afternoon was along partisan lines. "The fact of the matter is that what the minimum wage increase does is, it eliminates jobs," said Republican minority leader Scott Fitzgerald (PDF). "That speech had to be written by George Bush and Dick Cheney," said Majority Leader Russ Decker (PDF) in response to Fitzgerald's remarks. "It just had to be. Why can't workers be up here in the first row?"
"What are we doing," asked Republican Senator Ted Kanavas. "What are we doing and why are we doing it right now? The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is going through the roof." But Democrat Jon Erpenbach argued that was exactly the point, as more laid off workers apply for two or even three minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. "McDonald's is hiring right now, because McDonld's is doing fine under this economy" said Erpenbach. "The point is, these are adults, these aren't high school kids anymore. These are adults, with kids."
The bill passed on an 18-15 party line vote. It will need to be passed by the state Assembly before going to Gobvernor Jim Doyle.. The legislation would increase the minimum wage from $6.50 to $7.60 and then index it for inflation. The new wage would go into effect on June 1, and be indexed annually for inflation.
The Senate also passed legislation which increases the current cap on wage liens from $3,000 to $10,950 for unpaid, earned wages if a company goes bankrupt.