Sunday, July 27, 2014

Democrats build campaign on minimum wage

Posted By on Sun, Jul 27, 2014 at 7:19 AM

John Lyon writes about a familiar topic — the Arkansas Democratic Party's hope to use a minimum wage increase as a key issue across the spectrum of candidates seeking office in November.

Seems reasonable.

Arkansas is one of four states requiring less — a full dollar per hour less — than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Polling shows 79 percent of the people in Arkansas support an increase in the minimum wage. How can you lose? Well:

1) A lot of people might support a wage increase in theory, but not enough to make a campaign decision on that basis.

2) The people most affected by a minimum wage increase — will they vote? This is a non-presidential year. Motivated voters will have a disproportionate impact. Will a wage increase push people to the polls? Many are skeptical.

3) The minimum wage proposal hasn't made the ballot yet. With many months to gather signatures, the first effort fell 15,000 valid signatures short. Can they be gathered in 30 days I ran into two pleasant canvassers at a Farmers Market Saturday. They waited for me to approach them to inquire about their petitioning. The better approach is to solicit everyone passing by.

4) A legal challenge awaits all ballot initiatives this year because the deadline set by Secretary of State Mark Martin seems, on its face, to be in conflict with the Arkansas Constitution. (This, I think, will encourage his office to really put signatures under the microscope. If no ballot initiative qualifies, then Mark Martin need not take the fall for screwing up the petition deadline.)

Don't get me wrong. The cold shoulder Republicans give to a living wage IS a good reason to choose Democrats. Along with support for Medicare and Social Security, nutrition programs, student loans, early childhood education and a raft of other pro-people ideas. But evidence mounts that the Arkansas voter has bought the Koch-propagated message that they should take a dose of bitter medicine to preserve preferential tax and regulatory treatment for the wealthy. The benefits will trickle down, see? Just you wait.

Lyon's story trots out the Republican fallback to its opposition to the ballot initiative: They're for an increase in the minimum wage to maybe $7.25, not the two-year phase-in to $8.50 in the ballot initiative. But they want that done by the legislature, not by voters. See, a ballot initiative requires a two-thirds vote for future changes and it would be so hard to impose future increases. What a lot of hokum. The last legislative increase in 2006 came because of threat of a voter initiative. The Republican-majority legislature killed minimum wage legislation in the 2013 session and could be expected to do the same again in 2015. A Republican vote for minimum wage increases in the future is a belief in free beer tomorrow. Writes Lyon:

The proposal has become a key issue in the governor’s race, with Democrat Mike Ross supporting it and Republican Asa Hutchinson saying he would prefer that the Legislature raise the minimum wage.

Ross, a former congressman, said Friday in an email that Hutchinson, also a former congressman, is “not being honest.” Ross said Hutchinson voted multiple times in Congress against raising the federal minimum wage, and he pointed to the repeated failed attempts in the Legislature to raise the state minimum wage.

“This is not about politics,” Ross said. “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. Congressman Hutchinson’s opposition to letting the voters decide this issue is just more proof that he’s become out of touch with working families in Arkansas.”

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