A measure to have Utah's minimum wage tied to the Consumer Price Index may be dead.

HB114 was discussed Wednesday by the House Business and Labor Committee, but the committee adjourned without a vote on the bill after business representatives said the bill is unnecessary.

Utah's minimum wage moved from $5.85 to $6.55 last July and will jump to $7.25 this summer because of a federally mandated increase.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, noted that the bill would bring Utah's minimum wage to the federally required $7.25 per hour but also subject the minimum to annual inflation adjustments.

"As inflation goes up, so will the minimum wage go up, and it will take the consumer pricing index, average it out, figure out what that would be and yearly that would be addressed into the minimum wage," Hansen told the committee.

Rep. Ben Ferry, R-Corinne, who later moved for adjournment of the meeting, wondered by Hansen wanted to "separate Utah from the federal system."

Hansen said several states have minimum-wage standards that differ from the federal level, noting California's $8-per-hour minimum. He added that some people are "actually providing for families" with a minimum wage. "And as inflation goes up and their wages don't go up because they're in that minimum-wage standard, it would be nice" for wages to keep up with that inflation, he said.

But business representatives told the committee that Hansen's bill was unnecessary because of Congressional action on the minimum wage and that it would be burdensome to Utah companies.

"What this will do is cause an undue increase in labor costs that we may or may not be able to build into the costs of goods and services to offset this labor increase," said Jim Olsen, president of the Utah Food Industry Association and a representative for the Utah Retail Merchants Association.

With the state's low unemployment rate, wages in most of Utah already are "well above" the minimum, he said.

"Our industries are very labor-intensive. We're trying to keep up with the increases and build them into our budgets, and we're faced with a number of other inflationary factors that are causing us to raise our prices on food, particularly, that not too many of you are happy with, but it's out of our control. This (bill) would only exacerbate the problem, and we would have to pass that on to our consumers, which I don't think anybody wants," Olsen said.

Tom Bingham, president of the Utah Manufacturers Association, agreed.

"Congress is dealing with this," he said. "It makes no sense for us to have a separate set of rules and a separate level for Utah."

Candace Daly, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the matter "has already been addressed federally."

"We think this would be an additional economic disincentive for the state of Utah," she said, "and we'd like to stay on the same level playing field with the other 50 states."


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