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Ohio Democrats introduce bill to raise state minimum wage to $10.10

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Ohio House Representatives Mike Foley and Robert Hagan introduced legislation on Tuesday that would raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for non-tipped employees, the same rate that President Obama has proposed for the federal minimum wage. But Ohio House Bill 502 is expected to face a much harder legislative fight than a similar bill passed yesterday by Connecticut lawmakers.

The Connecticut General Assembly is controlled by Democrats, but Republicans hold most of the seats in the Ohio House and Senate.

"We'll be lucky to get a hearing on our bill," Ohio Rep. Mike Foley said today in a phone interview. "Representative Hagen and others who have co-sponsored the bill have an obligation and duty to push legislation that we think is right and economically sound, and that's what we're doing.

"We think that introducing the legislation will help the larger discussion in the state and the country, and be part and parcel of the movement to raise the minimum wage," he said.

The $10.10 rate required by HB 502 would take effect on January 1, 2015. The law would also require businesses to pay tipped workers the same wage, unless an employer can demonstrate that the combined wages a tipped worker receives is equal to or greater than the minimum wage. Even in that case, employers could pay no less than half the minimum wage.

Foley dismissed the claim by conservatives and business groups that raising the minimum wage forces businesses to cut low-wage jobs, hurting the people the wage hike is intended to benefit. "Every time they make the same argument. It never happens," he said.

"When you get more money into the hands of lower-income people, they have more money to spend on goods and services. It's a much better way to improve overall economic conditions in the country than what conservatives like to do, which is give tax breaks to rich people."

HB 502 "is especially important for raising the tipped wage for workers in the restaurant sector," said Michael Smalz, Senior Attorney at the Ohio Poverty Law Center. The federal tipped wage has been frozen at $2.13 since 1996.

A new study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that states which raised the subminimum (tipped) wage have seen increases in restaurant employment and sales.

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