LOS ANGELES — California’s top lawmakers on Wednesday pledged their support for a plan to raise the minimum wage in the state to $10 an hour, which could soon give California workers the highest minimum pay rate in the country.
In a rare show of backing for pending legislation, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, announced his “strong support” for a bill in the state Legislature that would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour from $8 by the start of 2016. Currently, Washington state has the highest minimum wage of any state, at $9.19 per hour.
Leaders of the Legislature, where Democrats hold majorities in both houses, also announced their support for the bill Wednesday, all but guaranteeing its passage before the legislative deadline Friday.
“The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.”
The increase offers one of the clearest examples yet of the effect of one-party rule in California.
Efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, which remains at $7.25 per hour, have gained little traction in Washington. And Republicans here, along with business groups, have opposed the state minimum wage increase, calling it a job killer.
But their objections matter little as Democrats here, who hold all statewide offices and overwhelming majorities in the Legislature, are poised to approve the increase, with the backing of organized labor.
Bob Huff, the Republican leader in the California Senate, conceded that blocking the bill was unlikely.
“This is just going to drive more jobs out of the state at a time when California can’t afford to do that,” he said.
If approved, the bill will raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour next July 1, then to $10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016. Only eight states currently offer a minimum wage of at least $8 per hour.
State Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who wrote the bill, called the increase modest, saying that it did not include built-in cost-of-living increases, which some other states use.
“The cost of gasoline, food and all kinds of things has been going up,” he said. “This is simply the opportunity to give dignity and respect to those who simply want to be able to provide for their families.”
By Ian Lovett