SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Several Republican senators, including Utah Senator Mitt Romney, introduced a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in 14 years.

If passed, the “Higher Wages for American Workers Act” would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $11 an hour by 2028. After reaching $11 an hour, the federal wage would then index to inflation every two years. The last time federal wages increased was in 2009, when it reached $7.25 an hour after two years of steady increase.

Sen. Romney said the failure to raise the minimum wage despite a rise in the cost of living has left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.

The White House previously urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, however, lawmakers expressed concerns. Republican lawmakers say a $15 minimum wage increase would destroy 1.4 million jobs. At $11 an hour, they claim 3.5 million workers would benefit without harming the job market.

“Our proposal would raise wages for millions of workers without risking jobs and tether the wage to inflation to ensure it keeps up with rising costs,” said Romney.

Sen. Romney and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) first introduced the Higher Wages for American Workers Act in 2021, announcing plans to bring it to the legislature. At the time, the bill only increased the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour.

In addition to the wage increase, the new version of the bill introduces a slower rollout for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Minimum wage requirements would rise by 50 cents per year, until equaling the $11 minimum in 2030. The bill would also create a mandatory electronic verification process which Republican lawmakers say would ensure the rising wages go only to “legally authorized” workers.

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low – that’s unfair,” said Sen. Cotton. “Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”

According to the bill, employers face penalties, including fines, for failing to use E-Verify for their employees.

Joining Romney and Cotton in support of the bill are Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sen. JD Vance (R-OH).