Louisiana rejects raising minimum wage a day after advancing bill to raise lawmaker pay

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana lawmakers on Wednesday rejected an annual effort to raise the minimum wage one day after advancing a bill that would more than double legislators' pay in a state where one in five people live below the poverty rate.

Democratic Alexandria Rep. Ed Larvadain's House Bill 374 would have established a state minimum wage of $10 per hour beginning in 2024 before gradually raising it to $14 in 2028, but opponents argued it would be a hardship on businesses and create job losses.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and hasn't been changed since 2008.

"Our citizens are hurting and struggling to survive," Larvadain said. "We must do better. This is a time we must act. Louisiana is losing (population) while other southern states are growing."

But members of the House Labor Committee voted 9-5 to kill the bill. A second minimum wage bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate, but if that bill somehow cleared the Senate it would have to return to House Labor.

Republican Abita Springs Rep. Larry Frieman said he isn't aware of any business in his district that doesn't voluntarily pay more than the minimum wage and disputed Larvadain theory that Louisiana is losing population because it doesn't have a minimum wage that exceeds federal law.

The statue of former Gov. Huey Long overlooks the Louisiana State Capitol that he built. Pictured here Spring 2023.

"People are moving to Texas and Texas has a $7.25 minimum wage," Frieman said. "$7.25 isn't running people out of the state. The reason people are leaving is for better opportunities."

Democratic Natchitoches Rep. Kenny Cox, who voted for the bill, noted the effort to raise lawmakers' pay to 75% of the state median income, which would be about $40,000.

"But we can't give poor folks $10 an hour," Cox said.

Twenty-nine states have enacted minimum wages higher than federal law. Neighbors Texas and Mississippi follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25, but Arkansas has a minimum wage of $11 per hour.

Louisiana's poverty rate is 18.56, second highest to Mississippi at 19.2%.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has supported establishing a state minimum wage higher than federal law since he first came into office in 2016 and cited a 2019 LSU poll that showed 81% of those surveyed supported establishing a state minimum wage of at least $8.50 per hour.

More:Louisiana lawmakers advance bill to raise their pay; will teachers get one too?

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.