The Minimum Wage Gets a Boost

Congress has approved a hike for the minimum wage--for the first time since 1997.

According to a New York Times article:

By a vote of 348 to 73, the House approved the measure as part of a deal on Iraq spending. Less than two hours later, the wage increase was approved in the Senate, where it was combined with a bill providing more money for the Iraq war. That vote was 80 to 14.

The measure would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 in three stages over two years. The bill includes $4.84 billion in tax breaks for small businesses. They have made a case, supported by Republicans and the White House, that the wage increase would be a burden for them.

President Bush said he would sign the measure as part of the bigger spending package that had been negotiated between Democratic lawmakers and the administration.

And CNNMoney.com reports:

The increase - a promise made by Democrats when they won control of Congress last fall - came after a five-month odyssey that included parliamentary differences between the majorities in both chambers, differences over the size of tax breaks for small business, and a debate about the future of the Iraq war.

The increase was part of the original Iraq supplemental measure passed by Congress last month, but vetoed by Bush because it contained timelines for troop withdrawals. The new measure does not contain timelines.

The Senate Finance Committee had originally proposed small business tax breaks of $12 billion while the House approved a much smaller $1.3 billion package.

A deal was finally brokered between House and Senate Democrats, giving $4.8 billion in tax breaks for small business.

I'll be expanding my coverage of the minimum wage increase in the days ahead--stay tuned.

-kc

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