Landmark Minimum Wage Hike: California Gov. Signs $15 An Hour Into Law

The California minimum wage hike passed the state senate last week, but as of this morning, it's official. Governor Jerry Brown signed the minimum wage hike into law, making $15 an hour the highest minimum wage in the United States.

California's minimum wage hike is just one such bill; a few others are currently being debated in other states like Oregon, Arizona, and New York. California's minimum wage hike is a gradual increase, though, so minimum wage workers aren't going to see a change in their paycheck for quite a while. The minimum wage hike comes after months of heated debate in the California state senate, but in a vote divided completely along party lines, Democrats pushed the measure through and the governor signed it into law this morning.

The Washington Post reports that California Republicans warn the minimum wage hike could cost "thousands of jobs," as small business owners would be forced to pay their employees much higher wages. However, Democrats counter that the cost of living in California has skyrocketed in recent years, and the minimum wage just hasn't kept up. The details of the California minimum wage hike aren't quite as earth-shaking as the headlines might suggest. The minimum wage hike is huge by most standards, reports Forbes, making it the highest in the United States, but it's not happening all at once. Minimum wage workers in California won't see $15 an hour until 2022.

"For a third of [California], about 13 million people, this new experiment in central planning will devastate already weak local economies," writes Forbes contributor Chuck DeVore on the minimum wage hike.

The opinion is split. Minimum wage workers and unions in California pushed hard for the increase, citing the huge increase in the cost of living in California state, even outside of major city centers. About 2.2 million Californians will benefit from the minimum wage hike, which will see their wages rise by 50 cents next year and a dollar a year after that – measures that Gov. Jerry Brown hopes will help working families stay above the poverty line.

"I'm hoping that what happens in California will not stay in California but spread all across the country," said Governor Jerry Brown last week when he announced the minimum wage hike.

The Democratic legislature in California passed the bill without any Republican support, reports CBS News, and the Republican party of California warns of dire consequences the popular minimum wage hike may cause for the Golden State's economy.

"Ignoring the voices and concerns of the vast majority of job creators in this state is deeply concerning and illustrates why many feel Sacramento is broken," said Tom Scott, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Still, Democratic lawmakers, unions, and minimum wage workers support the hike, stating that the minimum wage increase will allow California's most impoverished citizens to earn a living wage for the first time in years. Governor Jerry Brown hasn't always supported a $15 minimum wage; the Democratic governor recently expressed concern about the potential consequences of a minimum wage hike.

"Economically, minimum wages may not make sense, but work is not just an economic equation, labor is part of living in a moral community," Governor Jerry Brown told the Sacramento Bee.

California's minimum wage hike includes a few provisions that mirror Governor Brown's concerns, including the ability of a sitting governor to postpone the planned minimum wage increases if the economy experiences a serious downturn. CBS News reports that Governor Brown pursued the legislative minimum wage hike in order to head off ballot initiatives which could have imposed a $15 minimum wage without the consent of the governing officials, and the minimum wage hike could have included language that lawmakers didn't support.

Governor Brown's bill is the result of a compromise with the California labor unions.

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]