Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

The White House is backing a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

“The president has long supported raising the minimum wage so hardworking Americans can have a decent wage for a day’s work to support their families and make ends meet,” a White House official said.

President Barack Obama, the official continued, supports the Harkin-Miller bill, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from its current $7.25.

The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Tom Harkin of Iowa and in the House by George Miller of California, both Democrats. It would raise the minimum wage in three steps of 95 cents to $10.10, and then index it to inflation.

Jason Furman, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, met with Senate Democrats on Thursday to discuss the bill. Furman, who could not be reached for comment, reportedly said at that closed meeting that the White House goal was to raise the minimum wage, so if the Senate went with $10 or $10.10, the White House would be supportive, according to a Senate aide.

In his State of the Union speech in February, the president called for a federal minimum wage of $9 an hour.

“Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour,” Obama said at the time.

But there has been little movement in Washington on that front, despite action at the state level. Some states set their minimum wage above the federal minimum, and in September, California passed a law that will steadily raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by January 2016. That would make it the state with the highest wage floor.

Washington state currently has the highest state minimum wage at $9.19 an hour, a level that is indexed with inflation. Some cities have higher wages, including San Francisco, where the wage minimum is $10.55. On Tuesday, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment, by 61 percent to 39 percent, that will raise that state’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour Jan. 1, from $7.25. In addition, the measure calls for annual increases in New Jersey’s minimum wage to keep pace with inflation.

When the House voted on Miller’s proposal this year, it was voted down, without receiving any votes from Republicans. Miller said in an interview that he was confident that the House would vote to approve a higher minimum wage next summer, because he thought several dozen Republicans would back the measure for fear of angering moderate-income voters as the congressional elections approach.

In July, on the fourth anniversary of the most recent minimum wage increase, Harkin and Miller stepped up their effort, citing a poll by Hart Research that found that 80 percent of Americans supported their proposal to increase the minimum to $10.10. The Hart poll found that 92 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents, and 62 percent of Republicans backed their proposal. Economists are somewhat more divided, with conservatives concerned that raising the cost of labor could reduce the total number of low-wage workers employed.