In January, the new Democratic House passed a clean minimum wage bill, but in early February the Senate tagged on $8.3 billion in tax cuts for businesses, effectively delaying final action until a House-Senate conference convenes. President Bush has already said he supports the increase in minimum wage, but only if it is associated with tax breaks. The minimum wage, which would be raised from $5.15 to $7.25 by 2009, affects millions of working families and hasn't kept up with inflation since 1996. Increasing the minimum wage is a critical step to making work work, according to advocates for lower-income earners. As one anti-poverty activist put it, "How society treats its workers says much about our values and priorities."
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 13 million workers would receive an increase in their hourly wages if a minimum wage bill were signed into law. The increase would benefit working families—especially the approximately 1.2 million single-parent families with children under age 18.