GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- President Obama is expected to raise the minimum wage for new federal workers to over $10.10 an hour, and there's expected to be a push for a higher minimum wage here in Michigan.
Congress and state legislators set the minimum wage and it impacts everyone, although some farmers do have an exemption. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25. Michigan has set its minimum wage higher at $7.40. Washington State has the highest wage which is now set at $9.32.
John Tiemstra, a retired Calvin College Professor, says different states think they need higher minimum wages because of the different market conditions. "They think that in our state the minimum wage is really too low, so we need to have it a little bit higher."
Tiemstra says economists are sharply divided between those who think wages need to be higher and those who say minimum wage hurts the economy.
The benefits for a higher minimum wage include more income for consumers. "Which means families will have an easier time getting by," explains Tiemstra. This in turn would lower poverty levels.
Tiemstra says if more people have more money to spend, that might lead to more economic growth and in turn more jobs. In that way, a higher wage is akin to a tax cut in stimulating the economy.
Andy Johnston, VP President of Government and Corporate Affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, is against a higher minimum wage. "Where does that money come from? There has to be some give somewhere. It is going to be one of those four areas: higher prices, lower return, lower cost to suppliers, or less work force," explains Johnston.
If businesses are forced to pay a higher wage, something like a Big Mac might cost more or a company might decide to fire some of its employees. This, Johnston argues, would lead to higher unemployment and a worse economy.
With varying viewpoints, a deal, if any, in Congress will likely take quite a while.