House bill proposes higher minimum wage in Texas

Wynne Davis

Rep. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) filed a bill Thursday to raise minimum wage in Texas from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour.

The minimum wage for federal contract workers increased to $10.10 per hour after President Barack Obama passed an executive order in January.

Houston Tower, Rep. Lucio’s legislative director, said Lucio aimed to follow a national trend.

“Right now, roughly 75 percent of the public, according to some polls, is in favor of a raise of the minimum wage, and, while that may not say exactly the amount, we’re running off the what the federal government has done, as well as other states,” Tower said.

Plan II and economics sophomore Alexander Chase said he works at Which Wich and earns $7.25 per hour. Any increase in minimum wage would help him cover more of his expenses, Chase said. 

“I feel like raising the minimum wage to $10.10 … is not only reasonable, but has been needed for some time,” Chase said. “The fact of the matter is that wages have to keep up with rising costs of living.” 

Chase said he has worked in the food industry for two years, and the minimum wage has not increased during that time. The money he currently makes does not adequately help him pay his bills, Chase said.

“Given [the] costs of living, … any jump up at all is necessary,” Chase said. “$10.10 is not only reasonable, but probably a good starting point for discussion.” 

The bill is aimed at helping those who continually work hourly jobs, Tower said. 

“Down in the district, there are quite a few folks that are just working minimum wage jobs,” Tower said. “There’s all types of hourly jobs, and just putting a raise to the minimum wage would obviously put more money in their pockets, while at the same time … not losing jobs.” 

A rise in the minimum wage could possibly increase unemployment among low-wage earners if businesses do not find it profitable to hire more workers at a higher wage, according to economics professor Matthias Kehrig.

“My understanding is that this is a state-wide wage, and such a uniform measure is rarely appropriate,” Kehrig said. “$10.10 might be an appropriate minimum wage in places like Austin, but too high for small towns [and] rural areas. So workers in rural areas that have few job prospects already will most likely suffer.” 

Tower said Lucio expects resistance but plans to work with stakeholders on both sides to reach a solution.

“If you look at the national debate on [minimum wage], you can probably see quite a bit of how it’s going to play out,” Tower said. “There will be some resistance, and we understand that, and that’s to be expected. However, something like this is an issue that’s going to help the middle-to-lower class, lower income folks, and that’s really who he’s trying to help out.”