Mayor Levine Proposes Raising Miami Beach Minimum Wage to $13.31

Back in 2004, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a state constitutional amendment that tied increases in the state minimum wage to inflation, meaning wages would automatically increase over time without going through major legislative fights. Originally pegged at $6.15 an hour, its now risen to $8.05. 

Many feel that's still not enough. Though, in the fine print of the amendment is a provision that some believed allowed all public bodies, including local governments, to set their own higher minimum wage. No major city in Florida has exercised that option, and in 2013 Governor Rick Scott signed a law that forbid municipalities from assigning their own minimum. 

Well, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wants to make his city the first. 

He announced today that he'll introduce a resolution to raise the minimum wage within the city to $10.31 in July 2017. The wage would then increase $1 per hour a year until it hit $13.31 in February. 

Why $13.31? No, not just because he's trying to find a middle ground between Hillary Clinton's $12 proposal and Bernie Sanders' $15, but because that figure is the "living wage" figure that the city already uses as a baseline to pay city employees who don't receive benefits. 

“We continue to hear stories from our residents who are unable to live and work in Miami Beach because of the high costs of rent, transportation and basic living costs,” said Levine in a statement read at a press conference. 

Indeed, Miami Beach is a notably more expensive place to live than many others in Florida, and perhaps higher minimum wages in more costly cities makes more sense than a one-size-fits-all state-wide approach. 

Though, if passed, it would likely set up a court battle testing the constitutionality of the city-specific minimum wage ban Scott passed in 2013. 

A bill to raise the state-wide minimum introduced in the state senate last session by two Democrats was not taken up by the Republican-controlled body. Governor Rick Scott also made headlines in the past week for attacking California's plan to raise its own minimum wage to $15, so no one in much power up in Tallahassee seems poised to take up the issue on the state level. 

For Levine, a Democrat serving in a non-partisan post, taking up the issue would put the mayor in potentially direct conflict with Republicans up in Tallahassee. That's an interesting move, considering he's widely rumored to being eyeing a run for the governor's office in 2018. 

The move also shores up support for Levine among influential organizations in Democratic politics, including unions. The SEIU has already blasted out an e-mail thanking Levine. 

“We applaud Mayor Levine for showing real leadership on an issue that for so many means the difference between buying food or paying rent,” said Monica Russo, president of the SEIU Florida State Council, in a statement. “Florida continues to see growing costs without higher wages, and this disparity poses a real threat to Florida’s economy. It’s time to show that communities in Florida are ready to lead on this issue, and we are proud to stand with Mayor Levine as Miami Beach paves the way.”

The state's backbone industry, hospitality, relies on employing several lowly paid workers. Though, no one has, as of yet, announced an organized opposition to Levine's proposal. Likely, some sort of fight will be forthcoming. 

Levine will officially introduce the proposal before the city commission on May 11th. 

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