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Minimum Wage Increase Won't Reach Voters' Ballots

Wallis Watkins
Members of the Senate hear SB 155 from Senator Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) on Tuesday, May 21.

For the fourth year in a row, an effort to increase the minimum wage in Louisiana was unsuccessful Tuesday. 

Senator Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) told members of the Senate his bill didn't have the 26 votes needed to pass the Senate floor and move to the House.

The constitutional amendment —which needed two-thirds support from the Legislature—would have let voters decide whether to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour, something lawmakers have been unwilling to do.

Louisiana doesn’t have a minimum wage of its own. Instead, it follows the rate set by the federal government—$7.25 an hour.

Senator Carter pulled the bill without a vote. Even if it had made it out of the Senate, Carter acknowledged the bill faced an uphill battle in the House.

“The one thing we know for certain, if we don’t send it to the House, it’ll never get out of the House,” he told members of the Senate.

No one spoke against the bill on the Senate floor, but business groups have long criticized the move, suggesting it would lead to job losses in the state and force businesses to close their doors. They argue the market should determine wages, not the Legislature.

Several democratic lawmakers spoke in support of the bill before it was pulled. Senator Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) said it’s an issue where voters should have a say. 

“It is time for us to give them the opportunity to make that decision and let the citizens of this state decide if they want to increase the minimum wage,” he said.

A 2019 report from LSUshows 81 percent of Louisiana residents—both Republican and Democrat—support an $8.50 minimum wage. Nearly 60 percent of those polled support a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Senator Carter’s bill was backed by Governor John Bel Edwards, who campaigned on the issue of setting and raising the minimum wage in Louisiana. He’s pushed a bill each year in office, none of which have gained enough support. This was the first bill that would have put a vote to the people.