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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mike Ross goes after Asa Hutchinson on minimum wage increase

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 10:53 AM


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross waited a few days but now raps Republican Asa Hutchinson on his effective opposition to an increase in the minimum wage.

This steals a portion of a column I wrote for this week a few days ago following appearances by both candidates before the Delta grassroots caucus. There, Mike Ross supported the private option health insurance expansion, pre-K education and a minimum wage increase initiative. Hutchinson bobbed and weaved. Effectively, he said NO in each case.

A ballot initiative is circulating to raise the $6.25 state minimum wage — lowest among the states — to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Ross has long said (since April 4) that he supports the ballot  initiative.

Hutchinson's position, as stated last Friday (and shown in video):

“In reference to the state minimum wage, I do pledge to address that, uh, next year in the General Assembly. And we look at the economic factors of that time as to what the minimum wage should be raised next year. And I would prefer it to be done by the legislature versus by an initiated act for this reason."

That doesn't even say he'd endorse an increase by the legislature, only that he would "look at the economic factors of that time." The Republican-majority legislature killed a minimum wage increase proposal in 2013. I'd be willing to bet they are less friendly now, even though polls here and nationally show broad popular support.

Says Ross:

“Congressman Hutchinson clearly doesn’t trust the people of Arkansas to vote on whether or not we should raise the state’s minimum wage, so I think it’s fair to ask why he doesn’t trust the voters of Arkansas? I’m supporting the ballot initiative, because it gives every Arkansan the opportunity to vote on whether or not we should raise the state’s minimum wage from its current $6.25 per hour, which is $13,000 a year for a person working 40 hours a week. It’s just the latest example of how out-of-touch Congressman Hutchinson has become with working families in Arkansas.”

In bygone populist Arkansas, this would be a sure winner for Mike Ross. I don't know if that's so in 2014 with our changing political seas. But I do know, from my political point of view, that it's right.

The circumstantial evidence is that Hutchinson doesn't want government setting wages, but he doesn't want to say that today because of broad popular disagreement. He voted against the minimum wage increase as a congressman and once said he thought Arkansas should deal with a minimum wage increase only after a federal increase. The Arkansas wage last increased in 2006. In 2007, the federal minimum was increased to $7.25, but as yet, Hutchinson hasn't even declared support for an increase in the state minimum to that level. His remarks on public record run heavily against increases in the minimum wage.

PS — The Hutchinson camp objects. It says Hutchinson has expressed support for an increase in the minimum wage. Not this one. Not any specific proposal before the legislature. Not the one in 2013. He has no proposal of his own for 2015, only a vague promise to review the matter in light of the current economy. In other words, he wants all of the pleasure of seeming to be with the people while being against the only concrete idea currently available to help. Leadership this isn't.

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