Perez defends minimum wage hike

Labor Secretary Thomas PerezThomas E. PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE defended the White House push to raise the minimum wage from criticism Wednesday that it would cost the economy jobs.

Perez, testifying before a Senate panel, maintained that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would lift millions of people out of poverty.

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“Americans deserve a raise,” Perez said in remarks before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Last raised in 2009, the minimum wage is currently set at $7.25. A bump to $10.10 would represent the largest single increase in the history of the wage.

Republicans on the panel panned the proposal, pointing to a February report issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that the action could cost the U.S. economy half a million jobs.

“If the issue is jobs, than couldn’t we come up with a better proposal than one that the CBO said would cost 500,000 jobs?” asked Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the panel’s top Republican.

Perez disputed the CBO’s job loss estimates, and emphasized other portions of the report, which predicted that raising the wage would benefit 25 million people and pull nearly a million out of poverty.

The administration’s estimates are higher. It predicts that a wage hike would lift two million workers above the poverty line.

Earlier this year, President Obama effectively lifted the minimum wage for the employees of federal contractors as part of his “year of action” on issues where Congress fails to act.

An across-the-board wage increase would require legislation.

“The only thing left is for action to come from these halls,” Perez told the committee.