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Minimum wage increase should have minimum impact


Veterinary practice owners likely won't see much of an impact from the latest federal minimum wage increase.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Veterinary practice owners likely won't see much of an impact from the latest federal minimum-wage increase, according to industry experts.

The U.S. minimum wage increased to $7.25 in late July, the last of three staggered increases since the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 went into effect.

The minimum wage increased from $5.85 per hour in July 2007 to $6.55 per hour in July 2008 and now is set at $7.25 per hour.

"I don't think there will be a significant impact on practices," Karen Felsted, chief executive officer of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, says. "Most are paying above minimum wage to begin with."

While kennel workers in some practices and employees in predominately rural areas may earn minimum wage, those examples are more the exception than the rule, she says.

And even in those rare instances, the increase in cost likely will only amount to a few thousand dollars a year.

"It's just the cost of doing business, like increases of any kind -- rent, utilities, drugs, equipment," Felsted says. "Those are costs you don't have any choice in paying, and they are all a part of the decision-making process when considering whether to raise fees."

While Felsted acknowledges now might not be the best time to raise fees dramatically, a slight increase of 3 percent could offset additional expenses, like the minimum wage increase, she says.

Money matters,state-by- state

The minimum wage increase will directly benefit workers in 30 states, where the state minimum wage is currently at or below the federal minimum wage or there is no state minimum wage. Those states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In the District of Columbia, the minimum wage is required to be $1 more than the federal minimum.

What an extra $120 a month can buy

A family with a full-time minimum-wage earner would see its monthly income increase by about $120. That could pay for:

» More than a week's worth of groceries for an average family of four

» More than one week's utility bills

» Three tanks of gas for a small car »

» Replacing all of the light bulbs in a typical home with compact fluorescent light bulbs.

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