INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana's minimum wage will remain at the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour after the Republican-controlled House voted on party lines Monday to reject a proposal increasing the state's minimum hourly wage by one dollar.
House Democrats, led by state Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, argued salaries in the state already lag the rest of the country for comparable work and Indiana's consumer-driven economy cannot thrive if consumers have no money.
"This allows Hoosiers to live better," Bartlett said.
Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said it's past time for the state to do something that helps employees as ongoing Republican-led efforts to subsidize employers with tax breaks haven't produced an increase in jobs.
"People are out there struggling but they're not struggling because they're being paid too much, they're struggling because they don't have enough disposable income," Pelath said. "Let's stop this idea that the solution to every economic problem is to make people work for less."
Republican representatives, including several who said they own businesses that pay the minimum wage, said a hike in employee wages would inevitably lead to layoffs as business owners properly protect their profits.
"We're better off to let the market dictate this -- let people decide what they're willing to work for and let employers decide what they're willing to pay," said state Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel.
State Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, countered that under Torr's logic Indiana should just reduce its minimum wage to five cents an hour and then everyone would have a job. But no one could afford to buy anything, he said.
Approximately 93,000 workers earn the minimum wage in Indiana.
The minimum wage increase amendment to Senate Bill 213 was rejected 65-29, with every Republican voting against increasing the minimum wage and every Democrat voting for an increase.
Twenty states, including neighboring Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, have minimum wages higher than the federal rate, which was last increased in 2009.
The underlying legislation, which is eligible for a final House vote Tuesday, would prohibit local governments from mandating that employers provide any benefit, term of employment, working condition or leave policy more generous than required by federal or state law.