By Benjamin Yount for Watchdog.org
There’s more support for Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to raise the minimum wage in Wisconsin, but their numbers might fall a bit short.
The Wisconsin Budget Project, a group out of Madison, released a report that said raising the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour would give workers across the state a nearly $400 million raise.
“This move would give a raise to 464,000 workers in Wisconsin, or about one out of every six workers,” the Budget Project’s Tamarine Cornelius said.
Wisconsin current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group, says workers in the state don’t need a government-mandated pay raise, they need new skills.
“Wisconsin’s workforce challenge can be broken into two groups: attracting more working-age people and upskilling the workforce to be ready for the jobs we have available,” Kurt Bauer, WMC President & CEO, wrote in March.
The WMC has its own study that shows Wisconsin workers can make substantially more than $10.50 an hour, but only if they have the right skills and can get into the right jobs.
The Budget Project report says full-time workers who make the minimum wage would only see about an $800 dollar a year bump in their income.
The report says young workers, many of them at or near 20 years old, would see the biggest benefit.
Cornelius said it’s been a decade since lawmakers last raised Wisconsin’s minimum wage.
“It hasn’t been increased since 2009 and since then inflation has eaten away at the value of that wage.,” Cornelius said. “It means that people who are earning minimum wage are earning a little bit less each year.”
The WMC report, however, shows that many people in the state are earning more.
“Wisconsin is enjoying strong economic performance, near historically low unemployment, a diverse economic base including a robust manufacturing sector and high business optimism,” the report states.
An article from last summer’s Milwaukee BizTimes said that wage growth in Wisconsin was double that of the rest of the country.
“In May  , for example, the average weekly private sector wage in Wisconsin increased 6.4 percent from the same time in 2017, to $869.66. Nationwide, the increase was 3.1 percent, to $923.98. Account for inflation, and Wisconsin’s average wage was up $29.36 per week while the country’s was up just $2.27 per week,” the article stated.
Bauer and the WMC said the focus for Wisconsin should be on bringing new workers into the state, training the workers that the state already has, and helping employers fill the jobs they have open.
That, the group said, is the best way for all workers in the state to see a better wage.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for Watchdog.org. Reposted with permission.