Higher Minimum Wage: A Crucial Tool for Lifting More Californians out of Poverty

Come January 1, 2016, California will have the highest minimum wage of any state in the country. But it's not enough. So I'm committed to a path toward increasing the minimum wage to at least $15, because no one who works for a living in one of the world's leading economies should have to live in poverty. Right now, half of California's children live in poverty or near-poverty. That's unacceptable, and increasing the minimum wage is part of fixing that problem.

A bill in the California Legislature, SB 3 (Leno), is one avenue to increase the minimum wage and help make a better life for millions of workers and their families. SB 3 is now a two-year bill that will be considered when the legislature reconvenes in 2016. That means SB 3 will be considered after the current wage hike takes effect in January, allowing for that rate to be absorbed before an additional hike is enacted. That timing also provides more opportunity to generate support for the bill with legislators and the governor.

There is also another potential avenue, a 2016 ballot initiative that is being discussed to raise the minimum wage to $15. Recent polls show public support for raising the wage to that level by 2021. Earlier this year, we enacted California's landmark new state Earned Income Tax Credit, which will benefit roughly 2 million hard-working, low-income Californians and lift 50,000 Californians out of poverty and 50,000 more out of deep poverty. A higher minimum wage will be an effective next step.

As we review the options presented to us for raising the minimum wage, two things must be made clear: In every part of California, workers are struggling with poverty wages, and we can't leave anyone behind, so every minimum-wage worker must benefit from the increase. And the wage increase has to be at least high enough to keep workers out of poverty. I look forward to California implementing the $10 minimum wage in January, and moving to increase the wage even further for 2017 and beyond to lift more California families out of poverty, boost local communities, and make sure everyone benefits from our state's economic prosperity.