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Calif. moves closer to $15 wage

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California lawmakers hammered out a proposal over the weekend to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Under the plan, which was drafted with the support of the state’s powerful service unions, the legal minimum wage would climb in steps over the next seven years, starting with a 50-cent bump in 2017 to $10.50. It would rise by another 50 cents in 2018 and then by a dollar in each of the next four years. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an additional year, or until 2023, to hit the $15 threshold.

Governor Jerry Brown is expected to announce his support for the measure later today. The Democrat had voiced concerns about a $15 wage, citing the likely impact on employers and job growth. Political analysts say the Democrat has dropped his opposition because a union-backed drive succeeded last week in getting a wage-hike initiative on the November ballot. Another union faction is collecting signatures for a second initiative.

Ballot initiatives calling for a wage increase have a high rate of success.

Both ballot proposals would gradually raise the pay floor to $15, though under slightly different schedules. They also both call for a $1 increase next year, or just 12 months after the wage climbed to $10 an hour. The plan drafted on Saturday tempers that increase to 50 cents in each of the next two years.

The legislative proposal would make California, the nation’s largest restaurant market, the first state to raise its minimum wage to $15. The current minimum of $10 is already one of the highest in the country, behind the District of Columbia’s $10.50. The state does not have a tip credit, meaning servers collect the full minimum wage as well as gratuities.

With Brown’s support, the measure has a strong chance of passing. California’s Senate and Assembly are both controlled by Democrats.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is leading a drive to raise his state’s minimum wage to $15. He has already pushed through a $15 wage for employees of chain quick-service restaurants in the state.

A number of cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, have already enacted laws mandating that level of pay.

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