Saturday, November 1, 2014
Loading...





Minimum wage bills pushed in at least 30 states

Lawmakers in more than half of US states highlight income inequality with minimum wage bills

Posted on Jan. 26, 2014 at 1:27 p.m.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Minimum-wage increase proposals are getting the maximum push from Democrats in statehouses in more than half of U.S. states, highlighting the politically potent income inequality issue this year.

Lawmakers in at least 30 states are sponsoring or are expected to introduce wage hike measures, according to a national review by The Associated Press. They hope to notch state-level victories as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats remain stymied in attempts to raise the federal minimum wage above $7.25 an hour. The president is expected to mention the minimum wage in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Even in Republican-dominated capitals where the bills are longshots, the measures still give Democrats a chance to hammer home the popular theme of fair wages in what is an election year in most places.

“It’s a no-brainer for any Democrat,” said Neil Sroka, a strategist for progressive groups who is communications director at the Howard Dean-founded Democracy for America. “Congress is failing. They can take real action right in the states and have a demonstrable impact right here at home. For politics and policy, it’s a winning strategy.”

Minimum wage is a perennial issue that has taken on a higher profile amid the slowly recovering economy and growing public debate about income inequality. A Quinnipiac University poll this month found 71 percent of Americans in favor of raising the minimum wage — including more than half of Republicans polled.

Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, calls it an “organic issue that’s bubbling up from the grassroots.” But it’s also being pressed by politicians and labor unions. Democrats challenging Republican governors have taken up the issue, and there are ballot initiatives in several states.

“We are facing a huge income gap that only continues to widen, where the workers at the top see large wage increases and the workers at the bottom are at a standstill. That needs to change,” said Massachusetts Democratic Senate President Therese Murray.

Five states passed minimum wage measures last year, and advocates hope that number will grow as states from New Hampshire to Washington consider proposals. Many would push families above the federal poverty line, which is $15,730 for a family of two. In Iowa, a bill would hike the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. A Rhode Island bill would raise it from $8 to $9. And a year after New York approved a multiyear minimum wage hike, Assembly Democrats introduced another bill for 2014 sponsored by Labor Committee Chairman Carl Heastie of New York City that would accelerate the increase.

Labor unions and other advocates point to workers like Andrew Lloyd, who cleans the cabins, bathrooms and cockpits of airplanes between flights at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City for $8 an hour. With a wife and 1-year-old, he relies on food stamps to help stock the refrigerator and his paychecks barely cover diapers and other needs of his daughter. He said he can’t afford a new pair of socks for himself.

“It’s not enough. What we’re making is not enough to support,” Lloyd said. “There’s just no way they can justify what is going on is right.”

Opponents, many of them Republicans, argue that the higher wages translate into fewer jobs and higher consumer costs. So wage hike bills in Republican-controlled legislatures, like Florida and South Carolina, are not expected to pass. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the claim that working families need the boost to make ends meet makes him “cringe, because I know that statement is a lie.”

“Even if we did raise the minimum wage, working families will still not be able to make ends meet on those jobs,” Scott said. “We need good jobs that lead to good careers for our families, and that’s what I am focused on.”

Already, a Democrat-backed bill to increase Indiana’s minimum wage by $1 was blocked by majority Republicans on a party-line vote Tuesday.

Win or lose, the legislation gives Democrats a potential weapon against Republican opponents. Eddie Vale, a Democratic strategist with close ties to labor unions, said Republicans who oppose a wage hike will face fierce criticism.

“There’s a lot of people in this state that are making the minimum wage that are voting Republican right now,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Tennessee, where they plan to introduce a minimum wage bill this year. “Maybe if they see that they don’t have their best interests in their heart, they might change their minds.”

There’s hope that success will breed more success. Vale, a top adviser at the Democratic super PAC American Bridge, said the thinking behind the push is to get things started at the state level, where lawmakers come into more direct contact with their constituents. Once state legislatures start moving, it will lend momentum to a federal expansion.

In Minnesota, Rep. Ryan Winkler said as the debate spreads to more states, lawmakers might be more comfortable boosting the wage floor in his state.

“It’s not peer pressure, but it’s safety in numbers,” Winkler said. “It makes people feel like this is a mainstream thing to do.”

Contributing were Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Washington; Steve LeBlanc in Boston; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Fla.; Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tenn.; and Tom LoBianco in Indianapolis.


Recommended for You


 FILE - In this July 13, 2007 file photo, workers drill test holes at the Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay in Southwest, Alaska. The Pebble Mine is an environmentalist rallying cry, a potential copper and gold mine at the headwaters of one of the world’s richest salmon runs that the Obama administration is blocking, and an unusually-potent wedge issue in development-happy Alaska that could help Democratic Sen. Mark Begich survive a strong challenge for his seat.  (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)

Posted 1 hour ago
 Gay Soriano, left, talks with daughter Gabby, 11, as her brother Titan, 13, and father Rick walk nearby and along a memorial for victims of a deadly school shooting nearly a week earlier,  Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in Marysville, Wash. The family are immediate relatives of Gia Soriano, 14, who died in shooting. The shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, was a homecoming prince from a prominent tribal family. On Friday, Fryberg pulled out a handgun in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School cafeteria north of Seattle and started shooting. In addition to Gia Soriano, the victims were Zoe R. Galasso, 14; and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, who is in critical condition; and Fryberg's cousins, Nate Hatch, 14, who is in satisfactory condition and Andrew Fryberg, 15, who is in critical condition. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Posted 1 hour ago
 San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner holds the World Series MVP trophy during the victory parade for the 2014 baseball World Series champions, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Posted 1 hour ago
Back to top ^