According to information from Texas Industry Profiles, the mean wage for the Sherman/Denison area is $16.06, with an entry wage of $7.84 and an experienced wage of $20.17. The median wage for the area is $12.82. "For the most part, businesses locally have been paying greater than the minimum wage for a long time," Rhoden said.
In fact, Rhoden said, many local businesses have recently raised wages. "There were a lot of folks looking for good work," he said. In the Texoma area, he said, there are more jobs than qualified workers, and so the businesses raised wages in order to be as competitive as possible.
According to the Center for Public Police Priorities Family Budget Estimator Project, in the Sherman-Denison area, total monthly expenses for a two child, two parent family with employer sponsored health insurance is approximately $3,133.01. Add another child, and the expenses rise to $4,146.84. For a single parent with one child, the monthly expenses are $2,136.30.
Raising minimum wage 70 more cents an hour, would only impact wages in the 30 states that have lower minimums or no minimum wage. Some economists are concerned about the impact on smaller businesses, and whether or not the increase will result in small businesses laying off workers.
"How will they absorb the increase?" said Rajeev Dhawan, director of Georgia State University's Economic Forecasting Center. "They will either hire (fewer) people or they will do less business."
More than in any period before, businesses are likely to lay off employees and reduce hours, further fueling the economic slump in states seeing double-digit unemployment rates, fiscal conservatives and some economists say.
Minimum wage advocates counter the wage bump will keep more working poor afloat, and say more increases are needed to help stimulate consumer spending and strengthen businesses in the long run.
It's an old policy debate that resurfaced when Congress passed the increase two years ago and has taken on urgency as the nation's fiscal funk has deepened.
Backers of the increase say it's long overdue for millions of the nation's working poor. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., authored the 2007 minimum wage legislation, which increased pay for the first time in a decade.
"A higher minimum wage helps working families' budgets and results in increased spending on local business, which is good for everyone," Miller wrote in an e-mail. He did not say whether he would have pushed to raise the minimum wage in an economic climate like the current one, and he did not immediately respond to a message left Thursday with his spokesman.
Miller's view is a tough sell to employers of minimum wage workers -- from hotels to daycares to burger chains -- who find themselves having to cut larger paychecks as their revenues continue to shrink. The effects could be especially harsh in the seven states -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee -- where the pay increase coincides with double-digit unemployment.
"Wherever you have the higher unemployment rates, that's where the business conditions are bad -- and that's where a minimum wage increase will have an impact on the negative side," Dhawan said.
Marilynn Winn, an Atlanta woman who earns $6.75 an hour -- a couple of dimes more than the current $6.55 federal minimum -- driving cars between auto auctions, worries the pay boost could lead her boss to make cuts, especially to older workers like herself.
Still, she said she'd be grateful for the raise if she gets to keep her job.
"We could use more, the more the better," said Winn, 58.
Sara Campbell, who earns roughly $786 a month cleaning event spaces in Atlanta, said she's unlikely to spend any money she gets from the minimum wage increase, especially since she worries her hours will get cut.
"You never know," she said. "You might lose your job. They might start laying off and if they lay off, I'll have something saved up."
More upbeat predictions suggest the wage increase could actually play a role in turning around the nation's finances. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Thursday that the wage increase will generate an extra $5.5 billion in consumer spending over the next year.
Economists have largely overlooked the positive effect on consumer buying power, according to Holly Sklar, senior policy adviser for Let Justice Roll, a national campaign aimed at increasing the minimum wage to $10 by 2010.
A further wage increase could eventually become a reality: One of President Barack Obama's campaign promises included raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011.
"You can't have an economy that's based heavily on consumer purchasing power, and at the same time, not pay the consumer enough to live on," Sklar said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.