Federal Minimum Wage Debate

AUGUST 2, 2006 -- POSTED AT 9:30 P.M. CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. --Senate Democrats brought a hotel worker to the capitol Wednesday to explain why they want to kill a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage while cutting the inheritance tax.

"I am totally against the tax cut and a tax write-off for wealthier people who don't work as nearly as hard as I do," says Janelle Williams, a minimum wage worker.

Democrats say that by linking the two issues, Republicans are victimizing the working poor.

"They're holding them hostage to the most excessive tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals in America," says Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

Plus, Democrats say, in some states, the bill would result in lower pay for workers who depend on tips, such as waitresses, hair stylists, and hotel workers.

"We're not going to sign on to a deceptive minimum wage that would actually lower the incomes of thousands and thousands of workers in states across our country," says Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat from New York.

The bill would raise the minimum wage over three years to $7.25 an hour, from $5.15 an hour, where it's been since 1996. During that time, congressional pay has gone up $30,000.

Democrats have made the issue a big part of their drive to take control of Congress in this fall's elections.

This minimum wage increase actually affects a different group than you might think however. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 83% of Arkansans whose wages would be increased by the proposed minimum wage hike either live with their parents or another relative, live alone, or have a working spouse. Just 17% are sole earners in families with children and each of those sole earners has access to supplemental income through earned income tax credit.