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a ,. $, Jana Birc hum Wage, continued from page 9 wage employees are actually adults 20 or older. “For the most part, they work at retail trade and service jobsas cashiers in convenience stores and flipping burgers,” Baylor says. “Or they serve as maids at motels and working presses at laundry jobs. Maybe they’re a waitress or busboy at a local diner where there isn’t much tipping.” The two states with the highest minimum wage are located in the Northwest: Washington state with $7.16 and Alaska with $7.15. The most recent state to raise the minimum wage legislatively was New York state, where both housesincluding a Republican-controlled state Senatecombined to override a gubernatorial veto over the summer. On January 1, 2005, the minimum wage in New York rose to $6.00-an-hour, in the first stage of a process that will bring up the state minimum wage to $7.15 by 2007. In addition, the voters in two Red StatesNevada and Floridaopted by overwhelming margins in plebiscites71 to 29 percent of the vote in Nevada and 68 to 32 percent in Floridato raise the minimum wage. “It wasn’t even close,” says Bernie Horn, policy analyst at the Center for Policy Alternatives in Washington, D.C., referring to the plebiscites in both states. Noting that the last time that voters rejected a hike in the minimum wage was in Missouri in 1996, he adds: “Everyone gets what it means to raise the minimum wage. It’s not complicated.” One concern likely to be airedmost likely by lobbyists for small businesses is that a minimum wage hike will prove unduly painful to labor-intensive, momand-pop concerns. This is known as “the dis-employment thesis.” Yet, as the President’s Council of Economic Advisers annual report to Congress found in 1999: “Many different studies have examined this issue [the dis-employment thesis] and the weight of the evidence suggests that modest increases in the minimum wage have had very little or no effect on employment.” Add to that an April 2004 study by the non-profit Fiscal Policy Institute in New York, which found that “the number of employees in small establishments grew by 4.8 percent between 1998 and 2001″ in the 10 states and the District of Columbia with higher minimum wage rates at the time”nearly twice the 1.6 percent growth pace in the other states.” For Texas legislators fretting about the rising costs of public services, a higher state minimum wage would provide serendipitous benefits. Less state money would be necessary to subsidize housing, Medicaid, and other public services for the working poor. At the same time, with more money in their pockets, wage earners are likely to inject added cash into local economies. And that also means more sales tax dollars would flow into the coffers of state government. Moreover, a rise in the minimum wage benefits a broader class of lowwage workers than just those locked in the cellar of the economy, notes CPPP’s Baylor. “There is a band of people at the lowest end of the low-wage work 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .1/21/05