A Three-Sided Minimum Wage Debate Moves into Nevada

One Nevada senator wants to cut the state’s minimum wage by $2 an hour. Another wants to raise it by $8 an hour.

Guess which senator is a Democrat and which is a Republican. That is an easy one.

But this is tougher. Guess which party is also pushing to raise the state’s minimum wage by 75 cents.

Nevada Republican Sen. Joe Hardy wants to scrap the state’s constitutional amendment that provides a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour with health insurance coverage — same amount as the federal minimum wage — and $8.25 an hour if the employer does not make health insurance available.

The state’s minimum wage is set by constitutional amendment to always be $1 an hour higher than the federal minimum wage if the employer does not make healthcare coverage available.

Hardy’s proposal would replace it with a minimum wage of $5.15 an hour if the employer makes health insurance available or $6.15 an hour without health insurance coverage.

Not only does Hardy want to lower the Nevada minimum wage, which was set by a 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment, he wants to give the state legislature power to raise or lower it based on the Consumer Price Index.

Hardy’s legislation would also tie insurance premiums to federal poverty levels instead of the workers’ actual earned income.

Democrats have been attacking the Nevada minimum wage system even at the $7.25/$8.25 level. They have accused major corporations of offering employees “junk insurance” so they could be paid the lower hourly rate.

Zach Hudson, the spokesman for the Nevada State Democratic Party, said Hardy’s proposal would make that even worse.

“This bill is nothing more than a bailout for big corporations that have already cheated thousands of Nevada workers out of fair pay,” said Hudson. “Nothing could further highlight the contrast between Democrats and Republicans than this out of touch proposal to repeal the minimum wage amendment from Nevada’s constitution.”

This debate over doing away with a constitutional amendment and dropping the minimum wage by $2 an hour would seem contentious enough for any state.

But Democrat Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom has proposed raising the wage to $15 or $16 an hour depending on whether healthcare coverage is available.