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After Drama, Minimum Wage Increase Finally Passes

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RALEIGH, N.C. — There are more than 4 million workers in North Carolina. Around 139,000 workers earn minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. They're about to get a pay raise to $6.15 an hour, but not after last minute wheeling and dealing.

Friday started with a Senate committee pushing through a $1 per hour pay raise. But the bill also allowed employers to pay new employees and those younger than 20 a training wage of $4.25 an hour.

"You know, training time is extremely valuable and production increases exponentially as you train," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.

"This is one of the greatest populations that need the minimum wage increase, because minimum wage is typically paid to unskilled workers, who tend to be younger," said Sen. Phil Berger, D-Franklin.

The committee vote set off a political firestorm. Within hours of passing the $4.25 provision, the Senate committee voted to take it back. Some legislators said they were misinformed.

"I think we erred in the beginning," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford. "I don't think they had the right information."

After months of wrangling, the House and Senate are on the same page. Now there is one more step to raise the pay of the state's lowest paid workers.

With Gov. Mike Easley's signature, the minimum wage increase will become law to be raised to $6.15 per hour. The increase will become effective on Jan. 1, 2007.

The last time the state's minimum wage was increased was in 1997.


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