File-Oklahoma State Sen. George Young

Oklahoma State Senator George Young speaks during a news conference Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Oklahoma City. 

(The Center Square) – In an effort to help those most affected by the pandemic, Oklahoma State Sen. George Young suggested raising the state minimum wage to $10.50 per hour.

“We owe it as the leaders, as the legislators, as those who have taken the oath of office to care for those who live in the state of Oklahoma,” Young, D-Oklahoma City, said, according to KFOR. “To consider and then not only consider, to enact, legislation that will help them.”

Young suggests Oklahomans, newly empowered, will go ahead and return that money to the economy through spending.

On the other hand, there are costs to increasing the minimum wage. Cynthia Reid, senior vice president of Oklahoma City Greater Chamber of Commerce told KFOR that to balance the larger expense, businesses may employ fewer workers or switch more processes to automation.

"If the minimum wage is increased, small employers tell us that they would have to adjust business operations in many ways to absorb the increased cost including through reduced profits, reduced employee hours, waiting to fill open positions, reduced employment, and increased prices for customers," Jerrod Shouse, Oklahoma state director for National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), told The Center Square.

"According to a 2017 survey, 58% of our members with 10-19 employees said that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would have a negative impact and 60% of those small business owners said they would have to decrease the number of employees they hire if there is a minimum wage hike," Shouse said. "Another 67% said they would have to reduce their employee’s hours."

Twenty-nine states have minimum wage rates that are higher than the federal level. Oklahoma's minimum wage was last increased in 2008.

"Small employers have to absorb cost increases one way or another," Shouse said.

Neighboring states Texas and Kansas currently match Oklahoma's minimum wage, while Arkansas and Missouri have minimum wages nearly at or above $10 per hour.