By Robert Kittle
The minimum wage would go up to $10 an hour in South Carolina if a bill prefiled in the South Carolina House becomes law. The minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour, which would translate to $15,080 for a full-time, year-round employee.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, filed the bill.
Supporters of a higher minimum wage say it needs to be raised just to keep up with inflation. In 1968, the federal minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, which would be $10.70 in 2013 dollars.
But critics say such a big increase would hurt businesses and the economy, since prices would go up on just about everything, and many of the same workers a higher minimum wage is designed to help would lose their jobs if businesses had to cut back.
Hoyt Wheeler, a distinguished professor emeritus of management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, has studied and taught on the minimum wage and labor extensively. He says a higher minimum wage would actually help the state's economy.
“The economy depends upon demand, and people have more confidence and demand more goods when they have money to spend. And when you have more money in the hands of the people at the bottom of the economic scale they spend it, unlike others who might invest or save. And so it really does good things for the economy,” he says.
But small business owner Leanne Snelgrove, owner of Taco Cid in West Columbia, says a higher minimum wage would have a negative effect. “Food costs would go up, not only for me to my customers but as well as my vendors that provide the food to us, I'm sure their food costs to me would go up as well. So unfortunately the customers are going to have to pay a little more to eat out and I'm afraid that will hurt small businesses like me,” she says.
Wheeler says costs might go up, but they might not. “If you raise the price of a Big Mac by 15 cents, is that really going to lower the demand for it? We don't know. It may or may not. The economic studies that have been done over the years are really not very conclusive,” he says.
Snelgrove says she knows from personal experience that even small price differences can affect business. “We have 75-cent tacos here on Mondays, and you would be amazed how much difference it is that people don't want tacos on Tuesday, they want tacos on Monday ‘cause they want it at that cheaper price.”
One of the biggest obstacles facing the bill is that the South Carolina House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, who are typically against raising the minimum wage.