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  • Twenty states to raise minimum wage on Jan. 1 but not Maine thanks to LePage

      By Ramona du Houx

    The minimum wage will rise in 20 states and the District of Columbia on January 1, 2015 as laws and automatic adjustments are made official with the start of the New Year. That means twenty-nine states will have minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25, including Maine.

    When President Barak Obama was reelected he put out a call for the federal minimum wage to be increased to $10.10 an hour and for private companies to take the initiative and raise wages independently. Soon after Obama put through executive orders so federal workers got that raise. His actions spurred companies, legislatures and governors to take similar actions.

    In the 13 states that boosted their minimum wages in January of 2014 the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was only 0.61 percent.

    In Maine the legislature put forward bills to increase the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour. The proposals passed but were vetoed by Governor Paul LePage, not once but four different times.

    "One out of four workers in the Second District — almost 60,000 workers— would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as proposed by President Obama. We need a statewide referendum to increase the state minimum wage for everybody," said Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci.

    The federal minimum wage because it doesn’t have inflation indexing has not reflected cost in living increases and in real time would be equivalent to a minimum wage of the 1970’s. An increase of just a dollar an hour would give working people $2,000 more per year. That would in turn be spent in locally. So increasing the minimum wage really increases everyone’s livelihoods.

    In fact minimum wage hikes will have a direct impact for nearly 2.3 million workers who currently earn less per hour than the new minimum wage. And EPI estimates that an additional 900,000 people would be affected indirectly, as employers adjust their payscales upward. So, if a minimum wage rises from $8 to $9, EPI assumes everyone currently earning $9 will be bumped up to $10.

    Of the states where the minimum wage is rising due to legislative or voter action, five of them will also newly implement inflation indexing, bringing the number of states that tie future minimum wage hikes to inflation to 15.

    Washington state’s increase will be highest at $9.47. Oregon’s is next at $9.25, followed by Vermont and Connecticut at $9.15. Massachusetts and Rhode Island will have $9 minimum wages.