Small-business owners oppose plans to hike minimum wage

Saturday, February 5th 2005, 4:18 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Small-business owners are preparing to fight a pair of legislative proposals to raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma.

They say an increase will hurt small businesses and force job cuts.

``The idea of raising minimum wage could be a job killer,'' said Steve Wilkerson, National Federation of Independent Business Owners Oklahoma director. ``We must be diligent in helping small business succeed _ not create higher obstacles for them to overcome.''

The Legislature will consider two plans _ one filed by state Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, and another by state Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa _ that would increase the state's minimum wage.

Wilkerson said small-business owners should be able to negotiate with employees on wages without being told what they have to pay.

``That's the expected knee-jerk reaction,'' Morrissette said. ``They need to look at this legislation before deciding it's going to hurt business.''

Morrissette's plan would offer state tax incentives to companies that voluntarily pay workers at least $7 an hour, an increase from the $5.15 an hour minimum wage.

``Our plan is to raise up the lowest wage to a livable wage that will lift families out of poverty,'' Morrissette said.

Under the proposal the tax incentives would be offered for a two-year period.

Adelson's bill would raise the minimum wage to $6.15 or the federal minimum wage, whichever was higher. That bill, if passed, would become effective Nov. 1.

Officials of the business owners group said they will fight any proposal to raise the minimum wage.

``Small-business owners don't have a large profit margin,'' Wilkerson said. ``Most are making about $36,000 a year, and that's not a lot of money.''