Calif. lawmakers approve minimum wage increase

California approved bill AB10 late on Thursday, which will increase the state's minimum wage for the first time in six years. Under this bill, minimum wage will rise from $8 per hour to $10 per hour by 2016.

“California is experiencing the largest income gap in at least 30 years,” said Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), a sponsor of the bill. “Those at the lower end of the income spectrum are struggling with the rising cost of goods and services while many middle-class families continue to slip down the economic ladder.”

The State Assembly voted 50-to-25 in favor of the wage hike after the state Senate approved the bill 26-11.

The bill awaits signing by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has stated his intent to sign the bill and cited it as a long overdue piece of legislation.

Once in place, the bill would raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014, and then to $10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016.

The bill comes amid an escalating national debate regarding low-wage workers and the minimum wage. Some small business owners have opposed the bill, citing a 25% wage increase as crippling to a company's ability to thrive and hire workers. Others point out that jobs are created through demand, which is bolstered by extra money in the pockets of consumers nationwide.

The California Budget Project recently found that inflation-adjusted earnings for the bottom fifth of California workers dropped by nearly 6% between 2006 and 2012.