Would minimum wage increase help or harm Augusta?

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January 11, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. The vote must now go before the Senate, and, if approved, to President Bush to sign into law.

While some argue it's long overdue, others are saying not so fast.

It's not the first time this bill has been introduced by Democrats in Congress, but with longtime Republican control in the House and Senate, the measure always failed. Now that the powers are shifting, it may mean new hope for the working poor.

63-year-old Annie Ware makes just over minimum wage at $6.50 an hour at the National Hills Hotel.

She says with the help of social security, she brings in just about $550 a month part-time. It's a paycheck that's squeezing her dry.

"It's a struggle," she told News 12.

For Annie, the proposed minimum wage would give her only a 75 cent increase--an extra $15 a week or $60 a month, before taxes.

It may not sound like a whole lot, but to her, something is better than nothing.

"We need to make more money to get by," she said. "We ain't getting nowhere like this."

In a newly-formed Democratic controlled House, the increase would raise the country's minimum wage for the first time since 1997.

The extra $2.10 would be spread out in three 70-cent phases in the next 26 months.

Congressman John Barrow said, "I don't think anything shows how screwed up Congress is that a Congressman can get a cost of living increase for doing nothing, but folks who work full time can't pull their family out of poverty."

But the move isn't getting praise from everyone.

Matt Flynn co-owns three downtown restaurants and bars in Augusta. He says the increase would only shortchange small businesses like his.

"I'm going to have to pay cooks who make $8 or $9 an hour even more now, because the dishwasher will make just as much as them," he said.

That's a ripple effect that'll get passed on to you.

"It's got to be worth us doing to stay in the business, so that's how it works," Flynn said.

That means dining out may soon come at a hefty price.

The White House is asking for a tax incentive to help offset some of those costs to sway GOP leaders in the Senate.

The Senate is expected to take on the bill as early as next week.