After Referenda, Legislators Look to Water Down Minimum Wage Hikes

After Referenda, Legislators Look to Water Down Minimum Wage Hikes

In last November’s US elections, voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington State passed ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in these states to between $12 and $13.50 per hour by 2020, while wage floors are also rising in other states and cities by legislative means, as part of an overall trend we are seeing of state and local governments raising their own pay standards. Yet those who voted for a higher minimum wage at the polls in November may not have the last word on the matter, Bloomberg reports, as some lawmakers in those states are trying to weaken or override the measures approved by voters:

In Washington, where voters opted for a $13.50 an hour minimum wage by 2020, and Maine, where it was set to rise to $12 that year, state legislators have proposed a battery of bills to water down the increases. The city council in Flagstaff, Arizona has done the same to a local initiative that would have boosted the wage floor to $12 this year, sooner than the statewide increase. …

“It just makes it that much better for the public,” says Maine Republican State Senator Scott Cyrway, the sponsor of a bill allowing his state’s minors to be paid less than the new minimum wage. “It’s trying to help the economy and help our kids learn work ethic and help business people to hire teenagers.”

Cyrway’s bill is one of nine proposing changes to the new $12 minimum wage law that are slated to be considered by a joint House-Senate labor committee at hearings Wednesday. Others would instead freeze the state’s minimum at $9 an hour; stop it from being indexed to inflation; or forbid it from exceeding the average minimum wage in New England.

Most of the politicians pushing back on these minimum wage hikes are Republicans, but some Democrats are also concerned that raising the floor too far, too fast will cause significant job losses. Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh, for example, vetoed a City Council bill last month that would have increased the city’s wage floor to $15 an hour by 2022.