(The Center Square) – A number of bills intended to increase wages for workers have been filed this legislative session by Democrats in the North Carolina Senate.

Most of the bills are aimed at ensuring a $15 an hour wage for North Carolinians.

A recent Meredith College Poll showed most North Carolinians support increasing the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. Nearly 80% of survey respondents either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Roy Cooper recommended increasing salaries for non-certified K-12 school employees to $15 an hour in his budget proposal. Lawmakers have proposed Senate Bill 412 to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for the cohort of school workers. The bill’s primary sponsors are Sens. Sarah Crawford, D-Franklin; Kirk deViere, D-Cumberland; and Michael Garrett, D-Guilford. It has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage believe doing so would raise businesses' labor costs, which could result in fewer jobs, fewer hours and fewer benefits for workers.

The Heritage Foundation has estimated raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in North Carolina would result in 330,000 jobs lost.

A roundup of other legislation that target wage laws, all of which are waiting to be considered by the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate:

• Senate Bill 447: Increases the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years, starting in January 2022. After five years, the minimum wage would be adjusted according to the cost of living. It also increases the minimum wage for tipped workers. The amount of tips that can be counted as wages would increase gradually, going up to $9.50 an hour by 2025. Current law requires an employer to pay tipped workers at least $2.13 an hour as long as each employee receives enough tips to make up the difference between the wages paid and the minimum wage.

• Senate Bill 673: Increases the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2023. Workers would receive the first pay increase to $10.35 an hour in January 2023. On Sept. 30, 2023, and on every Sept. 30 going forward, the North Carolina commissioner of labor must calculate an adjusted minimum wage rate using the Consumer Price Index. The amount of tips that can be counted as wages would increase to $15 an hour by 2025. The minimum wage for tipped workers then would be phased out in January 2026.

SB 447 and SB 673 repeal minimum wage exemptions for domestic and agricultural workers.

• Senate Bill 615: Authorizes at least $15 an hour for direct care professionals, which provide specialized care daily for adults with disabilities, including home health aides, nursing assistants, personal care attendants and caregivers. The bill allows North Carolina Medicaid beneficiaries to get a 15% rate increase if they confirm the funds will be used to cover the new minimum wage. The $15 an hour would include all travel time and hours worked.

Lawmakers must approve the bills in both chambers of the General Assembly before they are sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for final consideration.

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