Tampa Bay House Republicans resolute against raising minimum wage

Posted by Mitch Perry on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Dennis Ross at a town hall meeting in Tampa last month.
  • Dennis Ross at a town hall meeting in Tampa last month.
Mitt Romney made news last week when he said that he supports an increase in the minimum wage, one of the major issues that President Obama and Democrats nationally are running on this year.

“I, for instance, as you know, part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage," Romney said last Friday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I think we ought to raise it. Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay."

His comments followed similar statements made by two other 2012 GOP presidential candidates, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum. Santorum told MSNBC's Chuck Todd earlier this month that "If the Republicans want to go out and say, 'We're against the minimum wage,' then go out and make the argument to the American public and 80-some percent of the American public believes we should have the minimum wage. But they're making arguments about why we shouldn't have any increase."

Sage comments, you might say. Well, local Republicans representing constituents in the Tampa Bay in Washington disagree.

"I quickly saw Mr. Romney's comments. I think he said it was a job creator? I would disagree with that," Pinellas County Representative David Jolly said on Saturday. "You know my remarks about indexing — that I think it's something that we should explore. The state of Florida already does it. If we do anything, we have to make sure that it's in a way that doesn't cripple the economy and job growth"

The state of Florida does increase the minimum wage each year to coincide with the growth of the CPI — Consumer Price Index. This year it has been set at $7.91an hour (and just $4.91 an hour for tipped workers). 

Polk/Hillsborough County GOP Representative Dennis Ross' views about raising the minimum wage made headlines last month when the CD15 Congressman blasted an Arby's worker for daring to suggest the benefits of doing so.

"I'm not suggesting that we do away with the minimum wage, that's not it at all," Ross at a town hall meeting in Tampa that went viral via the liberal blog Think Progress. "But the minimum wage is not a career wage. It's a wage to pay to make sure workers aren't taken advantage of by business owners. But if we're going to make it a living wage, who's going to pay for it?"

Later Ross said, "If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country."

Pasco/Pinellas Congressman Gus Bilirakis voted against the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour a year ago when it came up as an amendment offered by California Democrat George Martinez. House committees controlled by the GOP have prevented the measure from coming up for a full vote this year.

Not surprisingly, the lone Democrat in the Bay area, Tampa-based Representative Kathy Castor, is a champion of the legislation and has signed on as a co-sponsor. "Republicans should side with our working neighbors and their economic struggles, not just the wealthy and corporations,” she said last month in a statement. “Critics of giving working families a raise erroneously say that raising the national minimum wage would mainly help teenagers who work part-time and live with their parents, but that profile is far from reality. Eighty-eight percent of those helped by giving Americans a raise to $10.10 are adults, 56 percent of those are women and 55 percent work full-time.”

It's been nearly five years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage. Currently, a full-time minimum wage worker makes less than $16,000 per year, which is below the poverty line for a family of two or more.  But Republicans cite a CBO report that says that a $10.10 hourly wage would eliminate about 500,000 jobs, with $9 an hour slashing employment about 100,000.

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