It’s time for Nevada to move forward, increase minimum wage

In his State of the Union Address and in other appearances around the country, President Barack Obama has been making the case for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

“Nobody who works full time should be raising a family in poverty,” Obama has said.

Raising the minimum wage would “lift millions of people out of poverty. It would help millions work their way out of poverty.”

Unfortunately, at the national level, the president’s proposal has been a victim of political gridlock; many in Congress seem unwilling to even give it a fair hearing.

Therefore, the momentum has shifted to the states. In the last few months, a number of states have raised their minimum wage or are considering proposals to do so. I think it is time that Nevada gets with the program.

At present, the minimum wage for workers in Nevada who have health insurance provided by their employer is only $7.25 per hour.

For other workers, it is only $8.25 per hour. Even at this higher rate, a full-time minimum wage worker makes only $17,160 per year, or $330 per week.

This is not enough to secure the basic necessities of life — rent, food, medical care and child care — for even a small family. Could your family live on that amount?

How do these families get by? Often they have to rely on private charity or public welfare.

Some will argue that raising the minimum wage will just price some workers out of the market and raise unemployment. But the economics of the minimum wage are not that simple. There is good evidence that when workers are paid more, there is less turnover and higher productivity.

But the benefits of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would extend far beyond the individual worker. It would boost our state’s overall economy.

A minimum wage increase would put money in the pockets of working families, who then put it right back into our economy as they buy goods and services from our businesses.

The state of Washington, which has the highest minimum wage in the country, recently grabbed media attention by beating the rest of the nation in job creation.

That’s a call to action. Nevada should be generating those headlines.

As a member of the Legislature, I strongly believe the Nevada Constitution should be amended to remove the existing minimum wage provision and require a minimum hourly wage of $10.10, recalculated yearly to keep pace with inflation.

The benefits are social as well as economic. Raising incomes of workers to decent levels would strengthen families, stabilize neighborhoods and schools and reduce crime. I believe the time has come for Nevada to take action. As the president has said, “You’ve got a choice. You can give America the shaft or you can give it a raise.”

Attorney and state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, represents District 3 in the Nevada Legislature.