The letter, co-signed by economists Robert Gordon at Northwestern and Timothy Smeeding at Wisconsin tells leaders, "We urge you to act now and enact a three-step raise of 95 cents a year for three years-which would mean a minimum wage of $10.10 by 2016-and then index it to protect against inflation." The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr., although several states including Illinois have higher minimum wage levels.
The letter is in support of legislation introduced by Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California.
The economists note raising the minimum wage would not only increase full-time wages from $15,000 to $21,000 per year at the minimum wage level, but would also have a 'spillover' effect because those marginally above minimum wage levels would also have their pay increased.
Opponents argue however that raising the minimum wage would be a job-killer in what remains a difficult job environment, and would also increase costs for lower and middle class consumers.
You can see a full copy of their letter here: