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Democrats push minimum wage increase

MADISON / EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP, WEAU) -- Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature are calling on Republicans to hold a public hearing on a bill to increase the minimum wage.

Twenty six Democrats, including possible gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, sent a letter Tuesday requesting the hearing.

The bill was introduced in January. It would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $7.60 an hour and then have it go up automatically based on inflation.

The request for a hearing comes as President Barack Obama and Democrats nationally have been calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman says he doesn't support the bill, saying a higher minimum wage won't help his goal of finding more entry level jobs for teenagers. Grothman chairs the Judiciary and Labor Committee.

Democrats, including Representative Dana Wachs say a bill pushing Wisconsin’s minimum wage up could make a difference in strengthening the economy.

“The folks that are making $7.25 an hour, if they can make $7.60 an hour, which is what this bill is proposing, they're going to use that money in the economy. They're going to buy toys for their kids, a new refrigerator, they're going to buy actual products that this economy manufactures,” Wachs said.

Republican Representative Kathy Bernier says given the current state of the economy, the timing's not right.

“Any time you add an additional cost to an employer, the effect is an additional cost to their consumers. So naturally, what it would cost us for that product is going to go up. So therefore it could have an adverse effect on the economy as well,” Bernier said.

“I don't think that this is that big of an increase. We proposed this amount for a couple reasons. Number one, it's more likely to pass, number two, it isn't going to be a sudden shock to the economy in that respect either. This is not a huge uptake in terms of what an employer is going to be faced with,” Wachs said.

“I'm a fair minded person and I’m willing to sit down and discuss and look at evidence and all of that sort of thing, and I always have been. But right now, my instincts are that we can't add any more burden to our employers who are currently under the gun,” Bernier said.

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