By Ramona du Houx
Evidence shows that aising the minimum wage would keep more people off state assistance.
So, why would anyone beat up on working people by stopping measures to increase the minimum wage - a clear way that would help to improve their lives and livelihoods?
But that is what Gov. Paul LePage is attempting to do by trying to stop municipal officials in Portland and Bangor from raising the minimum wage for employers within their city limits.
LePage’s proposed legislation — LD 1361, “An Act to Promote Minimum Wage Consistency” — faces action this week at the state house.
A full-time Maine worker earning minimum wage only makes $15,600 per year. It’s impossible to live on such a wage, forcing many to seek assistance from state government.
At $7.50 per hour Maine is one of 29 states with minimum wages higher than the federal level of $7.25. That’s just a quarter difference. Other states have bumped up the minimum wage to $10.10.
Washington State has a statewide minimum wage of $9.47. But the city of Seattle increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour for workers at companies with more than 500 employees, and will do so for all workers by 2021.
San Francisco has also voted to enact a $15 minimum wage, and several other California cities have their own minimum wage ordinances in excess of the state level, as have
Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Louisville, Kentucky both have higher minimum wages than their state government standard.
So why shouldn’t Bangor and Portland or any other city be able to do the same?
The Portland City Council’s finance committee agreed to put Mayor Michael Brennan minimum wage increase proposal to a vote. Brennan wanted it to be $9.50 the committee agreed to $8.75 per hour, and it is expected to pass.
“The economy in different parts of the state is different. We, as a city, should be able to respond to the specific economic conditions in our community, to help the economy grow,” said Brennan.
In Bangor, City Councilor Joseph Baldacci has proposed a plan to gradually boost the city’s minimum wage each year until it reaches $9.75 in 2018, after which it would be pegged to inflation. Baldacci held a Town Hall to discuss the issue with citizens.
LePage vetoed a proposed minimum wage increase last year. Currently there are 8 different bills to increase the minimum wage for the legislature to decide upon. All the bills are expected to be vetoed by LePage. So why shouldn’t local cities take the initiative up?
“All we want to do is to promote policies to raise wages for working people. Its something that we should all be working on regardless of party. Instead this Governor has vetoed a minimum wage increase already at the state level, and now wants to veto all efforts at the local level. All of us at the grassroots need to say no to that.” said Baldacci.
In Portland the Green Party wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
And the Maine People’s Alliance has started collecting signatures for a people’s referendum on the issue.
If LePage wants to keep people off the welfare roles, he should logically consider increasing the minimum wage. A job that pays well is best for workers moral, it brings more funds into their communities to be spent on local goods and helps famines improve their quality of life. Isn’t that what state government should do?