Small business owners share thoughts about new minimum wage bill

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new bill introduced in the state Senate this week proposes to raise the minimum wage in Tennessee and there are mixed opinions about it.

State senator Sara Kyle is sponsoring the bill that would nearly double the minimum wage to $15 and hour statewide. Right now, Tennessee is still sitting at the national rate — $7.25 an hour.

Another minimum wage bill to raise the pay for workers who receive tips was also introduced this week.

Don Bruce is a professor of economic research at the University of Tennessee. He says looking at this from an economist view, it may not be the best solution for helping lower income citizens.

“Well, for those who have minimum-wage jobs, it would obviously be a nice increase in pay, but the economist will always step in and say, ‘somebody’s gonna have to pay for that.’ And that’s when you start getting a little more interesting with minimum wage, because that could be anyone from workers who no longer have jobs because the company can’t afford to pay as many workers; it might be customers at the store or the place of business where the prices are a lot higher to cover that additional cost,” Bruce said.

Jodi Eades, owner of Knoxville Soap Candle and Gifts, has been running her business alone for 10 years. She hasn’t been able to afford to hire an employee. A minimum wage increase wouldn’t make that any easier, but Jodi says she’s still in favor of the bill.

“I think it’s important for our country. I think that the minimum wage it hasn’t been raised in a long time, and there’s inflation and I just think it’s necessary.” Jodi said.

Flossie Mcnabb is the owner of Union Ave Books in downtown Knoxville, and says she can’t support the bill because it would force her to have to get rid of employees.

Professor Bruce says if we want to help the lowest income members of society, raising the minimum wage isn’t the best way to do it, due to the negative ripple effect it would have on the economy.

He says the better solution is through improved public assistance.

“Addressing this through adjustments to our public assistance programs might be another way to create a similar benefit but is better targeted to those who we see as most in need.” Bruce said.

If the “Tennessee Minimum Wage Act” is passed in the general assembly, it will go into effect July 1, 2020.

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