California Governor Jerry Brown on Monday was expected to sign into a law a plan to raise the minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour by the year 2023, making the nation’s most-populous state the first to boost pay to that level for the working poor.
The bill marks the culmination of a deal Brown brokered with labor leaders and state Democratic leaders and puts California, home to one of the world’s biggest economies, at the forefront of U.S. states and cities that have moved to surpass the federal minimum wage, which has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
Both houses of California’s state legislature approved the measure on Thursday, fast-tracking the measure two days after the deal was announced by Brown, a popular Democrat.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, that same day announced a proposal to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in parts of that state.
Raising the minimum wage has cropped up on many Democratic candidates’ agendas ahead of the November elections in the hopes it could help mobilize voters to the polls. Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has called for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.
The California measure heads off two competing ballot initiatives that lacked a provision to allow the governor to suspend increases in hard economic times, a deal-breaker for Brown.
With polls showing strong support for those measures at the ballot box, Brown emphasized that a version passed by the legislature would allow lawmakers to amend it if needed over time instead of going back to voters to request amendments in expensive and uncertain campaigns.
Moderate Democrats and most Republicans complained that it was being rushed through, and would disproportionately harm businesses in poorer parts of the state, where the cost of living is not high enough to warrant such a dramatic wage hike.
Fourteen states and several cities began 2016 with minimum wage increases, typically phasing in raises that will ultimately take them to between $10 and $15 an hour.
(Editing by Sara Catania and Mary Milliken)