Wisconsin bill could more than double state minimum wage

This bill would bump the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2020

A new bill in the Wisconsin Legislature could increase the state’s minimum wage for the first time in 10 years. This bill would bump the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $15  by 2020. The author of the bill, Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, called the minimum wage a civil rights issue and said people can’t live on the state’s current one. However, a local economist said a government mandated increase could create a negative ripple effect.

For 20 hours a week, Alyssa Fuselier takes orders and delivers the food all while wearing skates at Rudy’s Drive-in La Crosse. And there’s a bonus to this fun summer job, owner Gary Rudy pays Fuselier well above the state’s $7.25 minimum wage.

“Here I definitely make around $12, average probably,” Fuselier said.

Rudy’s owner said offering workers more than the minimum is often necessary.

“You have to pay employees more than minimum wage, usually, just to get them employed because the market dictates that there is a shortage of good quality employees,” Rudy’s Owner Gary Rudy said.

“You’re better off letting the market determine the wages,” T.J. Brooks said, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse economics professor.

Brooks said a law requiring businesses to pay $15 could actually hurt employees.

“So how are you going to cut costs? One is to cut employees, cut their hours, cut the number employees, make the ones that you have work harder,” Brooks said.

And most businesses wouldn’t have the additional money, so they would adjust in other ways.

“It doesn’t mandate how many people they have to hire, it doesn’t mandate what they have to pay in benefits, it doesn’t mandate anything else,” Brooks said. “So on all those other domains, employers will optimize, and they will counteract it, if you will.”

Fuselier said any additional cash would be welcomed but she’s wary of what an increase would do to her large tips.

“People aren’t going to tip as much because the food and everything else is going to go up so much higher,” Fuselier said.

This is just the latest effort to boost pay. Last year, an attempt to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 was shot down.

If Sargent’s bill ispassed, Wisconsin would become the 30th state in the U.S. to have a minimum wage above $7.25.