THE House Democratic leadership wants legislators to impose a state minimum wage on employers in this year's legislative session. It's part of a legislative agenda they cleverly call FEED, which they say stands for Families, Education, Energy and Development.A more accurate title may be Foolishly Eliminating Economic Development.Who will this proposal help - and do they need it?The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled the facts about who earns the minimum wage or less:In 1980, 15 percent of full-time workers in the United States earned minimum wages or less.In 2012, less than 4 percent did.80 percent of workers in this category are younger than 25.
In West Virginia, 26,000 or 5 percent of the 746,000 people with a job in 2012 earned the minimum wage or less.
Furthermore, a study by economists Joseph Sabia of San Diego State and Richard Burkhauser of Cornell universities showed only 6 percent of adults earning the minimum wage are the sole earner in their families.For the most part, minimum-wage jobs are first jobs for young workers, who are developing their work skills. McDonald's estimated that one in eight American workers has worked under the Golden Arches.Most minimum wage workers raise their own pay without the help of legislators."Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage earners receive a raise with the first 1-12 months on the job," according to a study by economists William Even of Miami (Ohio) and David MacPherson of Florida State.House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, has a better way. He would improve the plight of minimum wage workers by improving the state's economy."We still have taxes on our books that are not competitive. We still have infrastructure issues that we need to address. We still have overregulation in a lot of areas," Armstead told Metronews. "But the biggest problem is, both on a personal basis and on a job creation basis, we're just overtaxed in this state."Legislators from both sides of the aisle should reject imposing more burdens on businesses, many of them small businesses. Instead legislators need to develop the state's economy, which should help raise the wages of all 746,000 people in the state who have a job and increase the number of jobs available as well.