SAN ANTONIO - The president unveiled a slate of new proposals last night, during the first State of the Union address of his second term. He wants to take on everything from universal pre-school to addressing the threat of climate change.
Capping the agenda is a call to raise the federal minimum wage. It stands at $7.25 an hour, which Texas follows. Obama wants to raise it to $9 an hour by 2015.
The president also urged congress to automatically raise the minimum wage in the future to keep pace with inflation. He says it would lift the working poor out of poverty, without over-burdening businesses.
We heard differing opinions from people around San Antonio.
“Oh, I think that's so outstanding because there's so many people that can't make it on the minimum wage that we have right now,” one man told us.
However a woman visiting the Alamo remarked, “Small business owners and people who have gone into business for themselves, that's probably really going to hurt them.”
Louis Barrios is a restaurateur who has a lot of employees that start at minimum wage. He says keeping that wage low allows him to give more young people a chance to work and prove themselves.
“When they raise the minimum wage too high, you price young people out of the labor force, and you cause businesses not to hire as many people,” Barrios said.
He argues that employee pay will rise naturally, without government interference.
“The cream always rises to the top. So when you learn how to do a job, you will grow your wage as your expertise grows.”
The White House says an increase is needed and points to figures from the Economic Policy Institute. They show wages for working families have stalled or declined. Meanwhile, 98 percent of all income gains since 1980 have gone to the top ten percent of earners.