The Wisconsin Restaurant Association has released a study that estimates that more than 16,000 jobs would be lost with a higher minimum wage.
Supporters of a higher minimum wage, including President Barack Obama, have argued an increase will reduce turnover and raise productivity. The author of a study prepared for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, David Macpherson, doesn't buy it.
“If they (higher wages) really did increase productivity, then firms would raise the wages themselves without having to have the government mandate it,” said Macpherson.
Macpherson, of Trinity University, has written similar reports for other states linking a higher minimum wage to job loss.
Laura Dresser, an economist with the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, thinks Macpherson's estimate of jobs lost is high and doesn't take into account reduced reliance on taxpayer-funded programs like food stamps.
“It helps workers make ends meet so they don't rely on federal programs or on their friends and family,” said Dresser.
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association's Pete Hanson said many establishments would like to offer higher wages, but can’t afford to pass on costs to consumers who are price-conscious.
“If a restaurant operator has to raise prices to pay for the wage increases, they might lose customers,” said Hanson.
State Rep. Corey Mason (D-Racine) said that good public policy would create “a minimum standard that would pull people out of poverty and not require taxpayers to subsidize restaurant owners’ wages.”
Mason plans to re-introduce a bill that raises Wisconsin's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 in three phases.