Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Brian Moss says he favors a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $4.55 by 1991, and is attacking his opponent, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, for consistently opposing such measures.

"Hatch claims that employees actually benefit from being paid less than a decent working wage, and that small business owners are opposed to a minimum wage. Both of these arguments are unpersuasive," Moss said.However, Hatch's press secretary, Paul Smith, said while Hatch does oppose the minimum wage bill, he does not think workers are better off being paid less than a decent working wage. "He (Moss) is out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake on that one."

Chris Iversen, an aide to Hatch, adds that the senator feels raising the minimum wage would eliminate many entry level jobs - from which workers can normally advance into higher pay ranges. She said a study by two Clemson University professors also predicts the bill would eliminate 5,000 jobs in Utah in its first year alone with more losses in future years.

But Moss said in a press release that he favors the minimum wage because "good workers will not remain in a job where they are unappreciated and underpaid," and will leave to avoid becoming the working poor.

"An employer like myself, who has the pressure of meeting a payroll, must train and be able to keep quality employees. When there is a constant employee turnover, frequent re-training and low employee morale, the employer is actually losing money."

Moss said opposition such as Hatch's to increasing the minimum wage is "short-changing both America's workers and small business people."

A bill approved Wednesday by the Senate Labor Committee - of which Hatch is a member - would increase the current hourly minimum wage of $3.35 to $3.75 in 1989, $4.15 in 1990 and $4.55 in 1991. Hatch has promised a "donnybrook" when the bill is debated on the Senate floor.