Voters approve minimum wage increase, Children’s Services Council

Christine Sexton
News Service of Florida

Florida voters on Tuesday approved gradually boosting the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, while narrowly rejecting a proposal that would have overhauled the state’s primary-election system.


The hike in the minimum wage will be phased in through Sept. 30, 2026, but it will represent a significant move in a state heavily dependent on tourism and the service industry for jobs. It was put on the ballot with the financial help of well-known Orlando trial attorney John Morgan.


Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of voters in Leon County said yes to create a Children’s Services Council. A new property tax will fund the board.


Although the measure caused a split in the community, it had the backing of key figures including Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and Walt McNeil, Leon County Sheriff.


Supporters of the measure pointed to the fact that the board will improve health-care and education for children.


In all, voters on Tuesday were asked to weigh in on six proposed constitutional amendments.


Before midnight last Tuesday, the minimum-wage measure, Amendment 2, had support from nearly 61 percent of voters, above the 60 percent threshold needed for passing. It will increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021, and then increase it by $1 each year until Sept. 30, 2026, when it will be $15 per hour. Currently, the minimum wage is $8.56.


Business groups that opposed the measure conceded defeat late Tuesday. NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said an October analysis showed that 20 percent of small businesses were unsure if they would remain operational in the next six months.


“This makes 2021 a greater challenge for small businesses. Throw it on, we’ll see if this breaks the camel’s back,” Herrle said.


Florida is the eighth state to adopt a $15 minimum wage, and supporters said it is needed to improve the standard of living of many workers.


“This will help me a whole lot, I know it will,” said Gail Rogers, a 60-year old Ybor City resident who, after working at McDonalds for six years, said she earns $9.40 an hour.


Rogers, a widow who resides in a rooming house for women, is a member of the nationwide group Fight for $15 and has routinely protested her low wages in recent years.


“I can earn a little more cash. I can save more,” she said of the higher minimum wage. “I can save until I get to where I need to be at. I am not where I need to be at.”


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