April 12, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Augusta, ME – Last November, Maine voters approved a ballot initiative that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020—but the state legislature is now considering nine bills that would block much of that increase.
The nine include measures that would freeze the minimum at $9, prohibit it from being indexed to inflation or exceeding the average minimum in the six New England states, and let employers pay workers under 18 less. State Sen. Scott Cyrway (R-Benton), sponsor of the youth subminimum, said he’s trying to “help our kids learn work ethic and help business people to hire teenagers.” The bills considered most likely to pass would restore the lower minimum for workers who get tips; they’ve drawn cosponsors from Democrats, who hold a narrow majority in the state House. In Washington, whose initiative will raise the minimum to $13.50 by 2020, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) has introduced bills to delay the increase and exempt teenagers and workers at nonprofits. “A lot of times,” he says, “voters just don’t have full information or recognize the impact.” Arizona’s increase, to $10 this year and $12 in 2020, is protected by a state law requiring a three-fourths majority for the legislature to modify laws passed by ballot initiative. Read more