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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tough talking Tom Cotton puts finger to wind on minimum wage increase in state

Posted By on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 1:23 PM

click to enlarge COUNT MARK PRYOR IN: The senator backs group minimum wage proposal. Opponent Tom Cotton? The once bitter foe of minimum wage legislation is now thinking about it, at least on the Arkansas level. Not decided, mind you. Thinking.
  • COUNT MARK PRYOR IN: The senator backs group minimum wage proposal. Opponent Tom Cotton? The once bitter foe of minimum wage legislation is now thinking about it, at least on the Arkansas level. Not decided, mind you. Thinking.

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor
participated today, as previously announced, in a press conference by a grassroots group hoping to win ballot approval of an increase in the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour. A development today is U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, Pryor's extremist Republican opponent, going wobbly on the state wage increase proposal. He's not for it. But he's not against it. He's studying it.

Both Pryor and Cotton have previously announced opposition to the Obama administration's idea to push the federal minimum age to $10.10 an hour. But Pryor supports the Give Arkansas a Raise Now proposal to lift the state minimum in increments to $8.50 by 2017. In prepared remarks, Pryor said:

“We have a lot of hardworking folks here in Arkansas making minimum-wage, and it’s time these families got a raise,” Pryor said. “It’s just not acceptable that our state is one of four with a minimum wage set well below the federal level, even as tens of thousands of Arkansas families struggle to get by. Let’s come together and raise Arkansas’s minimum wage. It’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

A full-time worker would eventually realize more than $4,000 a year from the increase. It would, of course, go straight back into the economy on living expenses.

Polls show broad bipartisan support for a minimum wage increase. Anticipated  polling in Arkansas, on a lower minimum, is likely to produce even more positive numbers, so it's not surprising Cotton is currently keeping his powder dry. A spokesman for Cotton told Roby Brock's Talk Business today, after stating opposition to the federal increase:

Tom believes this issue is best left to the states and it’s a good idea to let Arkansas voters decide the matter. Tom will carefully study this proposal with an open mind and an eye toward making the best policy for Arkansas’s working families.” 

We shall see. Until now, Cotton has said mandated minimum wage increases were job killers. It was his principled economic analysis. Now it seems he's moved a bit and state lines have now become a factor in his calculus. Now his spokesman seems to be limiting Cotton's disapproval to the $10.10 figure. So where between $8.50 and $10.10 does economic laureate Cotton find the tipping point? We shall see,  Or is he just saying whatever the voters decide is OK by him? Leadership in action.

Cotton will have to break with his natural Billionaire Club constituency to back a wage increase. Will the Club for Growth stand for it? Suddenly, the principled Cotton looks a whole lot more like a triangulating politician. The Club for Greed, billionaires who provided significant campaign financing to Cotton, went ballistic in the president election when Mitt Romney backed indexing the minimum wage to adjust for inflation. Hard to imagine them smiling on an increase of better than 33 percent in the wage paid the undeserving low class of Arkansas.

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