COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio could raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour, thanks to two Cincinnati representatives.
Representatives Cecil Thomas and Brigid Kelly recently drafted legislation for the Ohio General Assembly that — if passed — would raise the minimum wage in Ohio to $15 per hour by 2027.
Sen. Hearcel Craig, a Democrat from Columbus, co-sponsored the bill.
Under the proposed legislation, the minimum wage would increase to $10 in 2022. The minimum wage would then increase by $1 per hour every year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2027. At that point, the minimum wage would grow with inflation.
Thomas said the hardships of essential workers during the pandemic emphasized to him how important it was to raise the minimum wage.
“And these individuals are basically the backbone of making sure the economy continues to move forward," Thomas said. "Because they are the essential workers. And so they had to go out to their jobs in order to continue to maintain a living. They could not work from home and all these other scenarios.
“So, putting money into their pockets, putting a livable wage in their pocket, they’re gonna put that money right back into the economy.”
The legislation was first announced in a Jan. 25 press release that called for other state legislators to sign the bill. Thirty-one Democrats in the House signed the bill.
“We are certainly hopeful that the bill will have an opportunity to work through the process," Kelly said. "People who think it’s a great idea will have an opportunity to weigh in and people that think it’s not a great idea will have an opportunity to weigh in."
Opponents of the wage increase argue that it would lead to lost jobs and higher prices. Currently under the Ohio constitution, the minimum wage follows inflation and increases a small amount each year. House Speaker Robert Cupp said further legislative intervention is unnecessary.
“I think it’s best to let the, let things play out in the economy," Cupp said. "Many employers would like to pay their employees more and many employers make a concerted effort to do that, but that depends on whether they’re making enough money to be able to do that."
A 2019 Policy Matters Ohio study that found a $15 per hour wage increase would increase wages for over 2 million Ohioans, Kelly said.
A similar initiative is taking place on the federal level as a piece of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package. If passed, the federal minimum wage would increase to $15 per hour by 2025.
The federal legislation faces an unclear path through Congress as Democrats hold onto a slim advantage in the Senate and Republican lawmakers cement their opposition to Biden’s plan.