Positive jobs growth report for Florida as businesses keep close watch on a citizens’ initiative

by | Mar 11, 2019

A citizen’s initiative that wants to amend the Florida Constitution to raise the minimum wage in Florida to $15 an hour clears its first hurdle in the process to be placed on the 2020 ballot for voters to decide. The initiative is being led by a group called Florida For A Fair Wage, which is backed by Orlando Attorney John Morgan who the led the drive to adopt the state’s medical marijuana amendment in 2016.

“Work with dignity is the answer to many of America’s woes!” Morgan said in a tweet posted on his Twitter account Monday morning. “People working their asses off and then going to food banks and riding busses subsidized by taxpayers. Compassionate Capitalism is the answer.”

The political committee had submitted 87,528 valid petition signatures to the state as of  Friday triggering a review of the proposed amendment by the Florida Supreme Court to ensure it meets the parameters of state law and whether it is clear to voters about what it does. That number exceeds the 76,632 voter signatures stipulated by law to trigger the review by the state’s high court.

What does it do if it makes the ballot and is approved by voters?

Under the proposal, the state’s minimum wage would go to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021 and increase by $1 each year until it hits $15 an hour on Sept. 30, 2026.

Florida’s business community opposes the amendment saying it would hurt businesses in the state and cost jobs.

Word of the amendment clearing its first hurdle comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday that Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate of 2.7 percent continues to outpace the national job growth rate of 2.1 percent. In the past year, 207,300 new private-sector jobs were created in Florida overall and 10,900 private-sector jobs were created in January. Florida’s unemployment rate remains low at 3.4 percent.

“Florida’s economy is strong, but we cannot rest on our laurels,” said DeSantis. “We have to build on our success by keeping taxes low and regulations reasonable, becoming the number one state for career and technical education and making smart investments in our infrastructure and environment. Only then can we ensure every Floridian has the opportunity to achieve economic prosperity.”

The Florida Chamber of Commerce says ordering businesses to raise the minimum wage isn’t the way to raise salaries in the state. The state business group says what is needed is a far more comprehensive approach with an emphasis on job training.

“Nothing is more important to Florida’s business community than economic prosperity for all Floridians,” said Edie Ousley, Vice President for Public Affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Rather than adding another new mandate on local businesses, we should come together to ensure there’s a universal path to prosperity through job training that creates $50,000 careers for the 1.7 percent of Floridians earning a minimum wage full time.”

Businesses question the need for such an amendment when salaries in the state are increasing due to a shortage in the supply of workers in Florida.

“Our indicators are from the small business economy are that wages are increasing and they are increasing as rapidly as  possible due to the severe shortage of labor,” said Bill Herrle, the Florida director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents small businesses across the U.S.

“We don’t like to see any artificial intervention into the labor market,” Herrle added. “In these conditions, today, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. But, in the future it could have harsh impacts.”

A report issued last month by the NFIB Research Center’s recent study, Economic Effects of Enacting the Raise the Wage Act on Small Businesses and the U.S. Economy, a federal proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 00 by 2024 would lead to “massive job loss, lost production, and income reduction on a national scale.”

If passed, there would be approximately 1.6 million fewer jobs in the United States in 2029 nationwide. For businesses with fewer than 500 employees, the Raise the Wage Act would eliminate more than 900,000, or 57 percent of all private sector jobs. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, nearly 700,000 jobs will be eliminated, or about 43 percent of all private sector job losses.

Once the Florida amendment’s ballot summary is reviewed by the court, and if approved, Florida For A Fair Wage will need to collect a total of 766,200 valid signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot. It would have to be approved by 60 percent of the voters.

The state’s minimum wage this year is currently set at $8.46 an hour.

Commenting on the latest job growth numbers, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Sen. Joe Guters, R-Sarasota, said less government intrusion is the key to a successful economy.

“Under Republican leadership, Florida has consistently sent a message that we are ‘Open for Business,’ and with the release of today’s job numbers, it is clear that Republican governance is good for the economy,” Gruters said.

“When government steps aside and allows the private sector to grow and thrive, employment opportunities also grow and Floridians thrive,” he added. “Florida’s lower taxes and business-friendly environment make Florida the best place to live, work and raise a family.”



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