Editorial by Mark Eves, the Maine Speaker of the House
On Wednesday, May 11, I’m looking forward to joining the Baldacci family as they host a spaghetti supper in support of raising the minimum wage. The dinner, at $5 per person, will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive, in Augusta.
The dinner is focused on why raising the minimum wage is so important for our state, and I want to take a minute to share why I’ll be supporting the minimum wage referendum on this year’s ballot.
Like so many Mainers, my wife and I worry about how to make ends meet. We worry how we’ll balance our car payments and grocery bills with the hopes of sending our three kids to college and whether we’ll actually be able to care for our parents as they get older.
And just like our neighbors, we’re willing to work hard to make up the gaps. Mainers don’t want things handed to us. We just want providing for our families and saving for our kids’ future to be a little less difficult.
No Mainer should be working full time and still live in poverty.
Yet that’s the reality for too many families that depend on a minimum wage salary.
Despite rising costs for basic needs, our state’s minimum wage has remained at $7.50 an hour since 2009.
Maine’s economic future depends on the strength of our workforce, the ability of our families to invest in their children, and the success of our businesses.
Raising the minimum wage in Maine is a critically important and long overdue move, both for families struggling to get by on low wages and our lagging economy. By putting money back into the pockets of Mainers who will spend it in their communities we can jump start our businesses, help reduce poverty, and begin to keep pace with other states who continue to get ahead.
In November voters will decide on a referendum that would raise Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 an hour in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. Further increases would be tied to the cost of living, and the current subminimum wage for employees such as restaurant workers who receive tips would be phased out over a longer period of time.
Almost 100,000 full-time workers in Maine would directly benefit from an increase in Maine’s minimum wage. Overall, 29 percent of all workers in our state would see an increase. And, more than 52,000 Maine children would benefit from one or both parents getting a raise.
I’ve heard countless stories from Mainers, including parents like Katie Logue of Auburn, who work full time at low-wage jobs and struggle to afford the basic necessities that they need to provide for their families. Katie had to rely on food assistance and was even homeless despite working full time at a convenience store for $8 an hour.
Beyond ensuring people like Katie are finally paid what they are worth, it’s the right thing to do to make sure every Mainer can bring a paycheck home that makes it possible to provide for their family.
Raising the minimum wage is also the smart thing to do for Maine’s businesses statewide.
Hundreds of business owners, such as Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, have already come out in support of raising Maine’s minimum wage.
Adam was right when he said, “When working Mainers make a decent living, they spend that extra money in our communities. It is good for the whole economy, including my business. In the last year and a half, Lee Auto Mall has raised our starting wage from $9 to $10 and six months ago we raised it to $11 per hour. It is good for our employees and it is the right thing to do.”
Maine desperately needs this economic growth at a time when our businesses continue to struggle with regional, national and international competition.
This legislative session we raised wages for law enforcement officers serving on the front lines and mental health and direct-care workers who take care of our most vulnerable.
Hard-working Maine families also deserve a raise.
Raising Maine’s minimum wage is the right thing to do for our families, our businesses, and our economy.
By Mark Eves, the Maine Speaker of the House