Joe Henderson: Will $15 minimum wage be more than campaign sound bite?
Voters will decide on the minimum wage hike proposal.

minimum wage Florida
The current state minimum wage is a bad joke.

Tampa, like every other major city, wants to attract young people to live and work here. But while sunshine and proximity to beaches is a selling point, can that overcome the cost of living? That’s where the $15 minimum wage comes in.

Increasing the minimum hourly wage to $15 is a major talking point in the city’s mayoral election. The seven candidates generally agree that the state minimum of $8.75 an hour ought to be increased, but they’re all a bit fuzzy about how to get that done.

David Straz has pledged to incrementally increase wages for city workers to $15 an hour if elected, but that could be tricky balancing. He also announced the possibility of cutting the city budget by 10 percent so, um, where would the extra estimated $4 million for the pay raises come from?

And then, there is this.

As Florida Politics reported, the entertainment complex known as the David. A Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts does not pay all of its employees at that minimum level. Straz can’t be blamed for that. He bought the naming rights to the building but doesn’t have control over personnel decisions.

However, it shows that getting to that magic number won’t be easy. But it should be a major issue for the two candidates that emerge from next Tuesday’s election into what we presume will be a runoff on April 23.

The current state minimum wage is a bad joke.

A person working 40 hours for the minimum wage makes $350 a week before taxes. That works out to $18,200 a year.

According to, the average cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in Tampa is $1,120 per month. That’s $13,440 per year, which leaves an individual in that situation with $4,760 before taxes to pay for everything else.

That’s bad.

The unintended consequence of raising the minimum wage to the desired level is that it could lead small businesses to trim the workforce and raise prices so they can control costs. Of course, that kind of analysis is coming from people who make considerably more than the minimum and don’t have to decide whether to buy groceries that week or pay the light bill.

It’s good that this has become a significant campaign issue though. Taking steps to ensure a higher standard of living for those on the lower end of the economic food chain is the right thing to do.

Figuring out how to do the right thing is another matter.

But, these candidates are battling to lead the city for the next four years. They each say they’re the right person for the job. It’s easy to make a good sound bite on the campaign trail. Making it happen, though, is called leadership.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Charles Brown

    February 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    If this is implemended the welfare rolls will need to be increased to support all those that will become unemployed.

  • Becky Jamin

    February 27, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    Well, something HAS to be done! There is VERY little affordable housing here in St. Pete. People need to be paid more just to live. It should be forbidden to build any more high rise, high priced apt./condo buildings. We need apartments/ houses that people can afford, having said that, the people who provide a service need to step up their game. It’s hard to find an ‘on point’ service business. People don’t have good work ethic, their slow, sometimes rude, frequently late for work, etc, etc. There are MANY people who DESERVE $15 an hour, but there are also those who need to shape up. I’m not sure he voters. what the best answer is, but I’m counting on Charlie to do the right thing. For us.

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