A group of Democrats in the Delaware General Assembly has proposed legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024.
Senate Bill 105, filed Friday, would hike Delaware’s current $8.75-per-hour minimum wage to $11 on the first day of 2020, followed by $1 increases at the start of each new year until it hits $15 in 2024. After that, it would tie Delaware’s minimum wage to the consumer price index, which measures changes in prices that consumers pay for a basket of goods and services over time.
The General Assembly last year passed a bill that raised the minimum wage by 50 cents to $8.75 per hour Jan. 1, with another 50-cent bump slated to take effect in October. Lawmakers separately voted in 2018 to create distinct youth and training wages, which allow employers to pay 50 cents less than the minimum for workers under the age of 18 and those still in the first 90 days on the job.
But the new measure, SB 105, figures to be a much tougher lift for proponents of a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
Introduced by freshman Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, the bill has so far gained the support of just three other Democrats in the Senate and four in the house—well below the threshold of support that it would need to pass in either chamber. No Republicans have yet signed on to support the measure.
So far only five states have moved to phase in a $15 minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York passed a law in 2016 raising the minimum wage in New York City to $15, and Washington, D.C., voted to fully enact a $15-per-hour minimum wage by 2020.
Lawmakers will also have to contend with the mad rush of legislation that is typically a hallmark of Legislative Hall in June. As the June 30 deadline for passing a balance budget approaches, the House and Senate will have to prioritize their work, and often, controversial bills that lack majority support will not come up for a floor vote at the end of session.
However, bill supporters argue that the changes are needed to keep pace with increases in the cost of living. Brown, the bill’s primary sponsor, said it costs on average $1,100 per month to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Delaware, but residents who work full time and earn the current minimum wage only make $1,400 each month, before taxes are deducted.
“Our job in the General Assembly is to enact laws that improve the lives of our constituents,” Brown said in a statement. “The best way we can do that is by making sure our economy is providing good jobs that pay a fair and livable wage. No one who works full time should struggle to buy groceries, pay their bills and put a roof over their head.”
SB 105 was initially slated for a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Labor committee, but was tabled at the last minute. The panel is now scheduled to hear the bill June 12 in Dover.