Ohio Democrats introduce bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage

Senate Bill 146 would gradually raise the minimum wage one dollar each year until it was up to $15. 

By: - September 19, 2023 4:50 am

Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters. The protest was part of a nationwide effort calling for minimum wage to be raised to $15-per-hour. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ohio Democratic lawmakers have once again introduced a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage. 

Ohio Senators Kent Smith, D-Euclid, and Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, recently introduced Senate Bill 146, which would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage one dollar each year until it was up to $15. 

Under the bill, minimum wage would increase to $12 an hour starting in 2024; $13 starting in 2025; $14 starting 2026; and $15 in 2027. 

“Minimum wage still does not provide a live-able wage,” Smith said.

Ohio’s current minimum wage is $10.10 per hour for non-tipped workers. By law, tipped employees earn half the state’s minimum wage — $5.05 per hour plus tips. 

SB 146 would also get rid of that distinction — automatically raising tipped workers pay up to minimum wage. 

“The biggest challenge facing Ohio, I think, is poverty and we need to go to war against poverty, not the poor,” Smith said. “We need to be doing more for those who have the least.”

The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Some states are already at the $15 threshold. Connecticut’s minimum wage is $15, California’s is $15.50 and Washington’s is $15.74. Washington, D.C.’s minimum wage is $17.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the last five Ohio General Assemblies — many by Smith and Craig — but none have ever gone past committee.  

An Ohioan without children must earn $15.33 an hour to have a living wage in Ohio, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator

When it comes to renting, full-time workers need to make at least $19.09 an hour to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Ohio — a $2.04 increase from last year, according to a joint report from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). 

President and Executive Director of the Center for Community Solutions John Corlett said there is a need to raise the minimum wage. 

“I think we are still below what people need to earn to support themselves and their families,” he said. “If we raise the minimum wage, that can help us reduce housing insecurity … it could reduce food insecurity.” 

In a Republican-controlled Statehouse, SB 146 has a steep hill to climb. 

“As a member of the minority party, I harbor no illusions of my ability to run a legislative agenda,” Smith said. “I’m trying to grow support for the notion that the minimum wage is still too low and that the tipped worker penalty is not good for anyone. One of the ways that I can grow public support for all of those is to introduce some legislation.”

He admits to playing the long game with the bill. 

“I would think that we will eventually be successful in removing the tipped worker penalty,” he said. 

Organizations that typically oppose raising minimum wage such as the Ohio Restaurant Association and National Federation of Independent Business are monitoring the bill, but opted not to comment since SB 146 was recently introduced.   

2006 initiated constitutional amendment

Ohioans voted to raise the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 per hour in 2006 and the increase started Jan. 1, 2007. The citizen-led constitutional amendment received 56.65% of the votes. 

Proposed constitutional amendment

Raise the Wage Ohio is trying to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for next year’s election. It would increase minimum wage to $12.75 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2025, and then go up to $15 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2026. 

The Ohio Ballot Board gave the campaign the green light to start collecting the necessary 413,446 valid signatures to make the ballot back in April. 

SB 146 is not related to the proposed constitutional amendment that is trying to get on the ballot for next year, Smith said. 

“What I would politely suggest is the Ohio economy, the American economy grows the best when the middle class is strongest and part of how you continue to have a middle class is you raise the minimum level of compensation so that workers aren’t exploited,” he said. 

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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.