(Reuters) California has become the first state in the nation to commit to raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour, although the increase will take place gradually until 2016 under a bill signed into law by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday.

The law raises minimum pay in the most populous state from its current rate of $8 per hour to $9 by July 2014 and $10 by January 2016. The state with the highest minimum wage currently is Washington, where employers must pay at least $9.19 per hour.

The measure won support from Democrats, passing the state Senate by a vote of 26-11 and the Assembly by 51-25. But it was opposed by many Republicans, who said it would hurt small businesses and ultimately cost some low-wage workers their jobs.

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