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2020

Florida Chamber stresses impacts $15 wage hike will have on seniors, families

Polling suggests the amendment will likely clear over 60% voter approval.

The Florida Chamber Foundation cautioned Floridians on Wednesday about the challenges seniors will face if voters approve the $15 minimum wage amendment.

“It really is going to mean substantial increases if you’re on a fixed income,” Florida Chamber Chief Economist Jerry Parrish said. “Restaurants, lawn service, dry cleaning, home repair, those things. Since seniors spend more on services than they do on goods, it really could be a big impact here for those seniors and people on fixed incomes.”

The Chamber’s warning comes less than three weeks before Election Day when voters will decide on Amendment 2. If passed with at least 60% approval, the constitutional amendment would bump Florida’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2021. It would then rise $1 each year until it hits $15 in 2026.

Florida’s current minimum wage is $8.56.

Rep. Mel Ponder also spoke at the chamber’s online forum. He described Amendment 2 as a “mistake that cannot be fixed” even during an economic crisis.

“Florida would be the only state with a constitutionally mandated minimum wage,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I’m not so sure Florida wants to be the first constitutionally mandated state with a mandatory minimum wage.”

Ponder also noted the ballot language associated with the amendment. He called the language a “big deal.”

“State and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels,” Ponder read aloud.

He continued: “This proposed constitutional amendment is estimated to have a net negative impact on the state budget. This impact may result in higher taxes or a loss of government services.”

Former Collier County school board member Erika Donald echoed Ponder’s concerns and said it will be a “disaster” for the state economy.

Donald added that even though the amendment is well-intentioned, it will hurt low-income families, young and unskilled workers, and families – many of whom are grappling with the state’s high unemployment.

“The reality is that we cannot afford higher unemployment in our state. we already are struggling after COVID-19. We need these businesses to be able to come back and if this amendment passes here in the next month, they are not going to be able to look ahead and be able to rehire and start building because they know that this is looming ahead of them.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a common argument among the amendment’s critics,  proponents argue a higher minimum wage would lift thousands out of poverty and reduce social program dependency.

Notably, Amendment 2 is spearheaded by John Morgan, a prominent attorney who has poured millions into the amendment. In a forum in late September, he described Florida’s current $8.56 minimum wage as a “slave wage.”

A recent statewide by St. Pete Polls show 65% of voters are poised to vote yes on the amendment. That level of support easily clears the 60% threshold required for voters to amend Florida’s Constitution.

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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