Appearing before the Senate Labor committee Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards urged members to pass equal pay and minimum wage legislation.
"When I ran for governor, I made a commitment to the people across the state of Louisiana that I would fight for fair pay," Edwards told committee members.
The Governor supports establishing a state minimum wage of $8 per hour starting in 2019. It would increase by 50 cents one year later.
Right now, Louisiana sets the same minimum wage as the federal government, $7.25 per hour. The last time that was increased was in 2009.
"Congress would occasionally revisit this issue and raise the minimum wage and Louisiana would participate in that. Congress isn’t doing that anymore," explained Edwards, "and what they’re saying is we’re going to leave this up to the states. So it's time for us to move."
Louisiana is one of only five states in the nation without a minimum wage law of its own. And nowhere in the United States is the pay gap larger between men and women.
Women in Louisiana make only 66 cents on the dollar. That disparity is even greater for women of color. For every dollar a man makes, they make about 50 cents. The Governor says that gap is holding children back, too.
He says there are "too many children living in poverty today needlessly, and they could rise up out of poverty, have a better life have more opportunity for success if only we would pay their mothers what they deserve to be paid."
Under a proposal supported by Edwards, all state contractors would be subject to Louisiana's Equal Pay for Women Act.
Both bills passed the committee Thursday.
This is the third time Edwards has pushed for equal pay and a minimum wage increase as governor. But neither policies have ever made it through the full legislature.