By Jake Johnson
After President Joe Biden voiced skepticism that $15 minimum wage legislation can survive the rules of the special procedure Democrats are using to pass coronavirus relief, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said a team of lawyers at the Senate Budget Committee is working tirelessly to demonstrate that a pay hike for 32 million U.S. workers would have a substantial budgetary impact and therefore should be eligible for reconciliation.
Noting the widespread public support for raising the long-stagnant $7.25 federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, the Vermont senator and new chairman of the Budget Committee told CNN that “we have a room full of lawyers working as hard as we can to make the case to the parliamentarian, that in fact, raising the minimum wage will have significant budget implications and, in fact, should be consistent with reconciliation rules.”
The Senate parliamentarian is the official tasked with determining whether a measure is in compliance with reconciliation rules, which require legislation to have an impact on the federal budget that is beyond “merely incidental.”
Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders pointed to a new research paper by University of California, Berkeley economist Michael Reich showing that raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would have a positive federal budget impact of $65.4 billion a year. According to Reich, the budget boost would come from a combination of increased tax revenue and reduced federal spending on some social programs that many low-wage workers are forced to rely on to make ends meet.
A recent study by Ben Zipperer and David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute echoes Reich’s findings. “One requirement that often rules provisions out of the budget reconciliation process is that these provisions must have fiscal impacts that are not just ‘extraneous,'” the economists note. “This report shows clearly that the fiscal effects of a significant increase in the minimum wage are direct and economically significant.”