Friday, September 5, 2014

Asa Hutchinson flip-flops on minimum wage measure: Once a foe now he'll vote for it

Posted By on Fri, Sep 5, 2014 at 6:51 AM

TOGETHER AT LAST; Mike Ross (left) has always supported the minimum wage increase. Now Asa Hutchinson says he, too, will vote for it.
  • TOGETHER AT LAST; Mike Ross (left) has always supported the minimum wage increase. Now Asa Hutchinson says he, too, will vote for it.
Asa Hutchinson repeatedly expressed sentiment AGAINST the proposal headed to the Nov. 4 ballot to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas. But yesterday, he told Talk Business that he will vote for it, though he still thinks it's the wrong way to accomplish higher pay for the lowest-paid workers in Arkansas.

Why the change of heart? Until this week, the proposal by Give Arkansas a Raise Now, had not been a certainty for the ballot. Polls also show consistent and broad support for the measure. (Going to be funny now to watch the social media Republican shouters back the minimum wage increase in support of Asa's position. Until now, the idea has been a terrible thing.)

Hutchinson early in the week — coincidentally hours before the Republican secretary of state's office would announce the ballot measure had qualified — expressed support for a minimum wage increase but stopped short of supporting the ballot initiative in a carefully worded statement aimed at covering both his flanks on the issue. I've asked him repeatedly this week whether he'd vote FOR the ballot measure. His campaign refused to respond. But yesterday, in Newport, Talk Business got this quote:

“Even though it is not the ideal way to raise the rate, I will vote for the initiative because it is in line with the main objective of raising the rate,” 

Previously, Hutchinson said he wouldn't support it. The measure raises the $6.25 an hour minimum to $8.50 by 2017. Hutchinson said he could favor an increase — but by the legislature — to $7.25, but only if economic circumstances permitted it. He never said what standard he'd follow to determine if economic circumstances warranted or precisely what pay level he'd propose.

Shades of 2006. When Hutchinson announced for governor that year, he opposed candidate Mike Beebe's plan to remove the sales tax on groceries. That was his position in January of 2006. In September of 2006, with Beebe showing strength and polls showing high support for removal of the tax, he had a change of heart. 

Now it's 2014. The minimum wage increase? He was against it before he said he'd vote for it.

Here's Asa in December 2013 on the wage increase:

“In regard to the minimum wage ballot initiative…I do not support an increase in the amounts set in the ballot initiative.” 

Today, he supports it.

Mike Ross, the Democratic candidate, has supported the minimum wage increase from the beginning.

Now, can we get a quote from Tom Cotton on his vote on the measure? He's said he's "studying" it. Study hall is over, as Democratic chair Vince Insalaco has said.

PS: Ross camp notes Hutchinson once said putting state minimum wage above the federal rate of $7.25 an hour would be bad for the Arkansas economy. He said yesterday he's all for it now. Huh? Ross release follows:

In his most recent and most desperate flip flop yet, Congressman Asa Hutchinson has announced he will now vote for the minimum wage ballot initiative he did not sign and explicitly opposed for months, and despite voting against minimum wage increases while he was in Congress. Hutchinson has also previously stated that raising the state minimum wage above the federal standard “would jeopardize the state’s economy.” The minimum wage measure on the November ballot would raise the state’s minimum wage to $7.50/hr on January 1, 2015 (above the federal standard of $7.25/hour); to $8.00/hr on January 1, 2016; and, to $8.50/hr on January 1, 2017.

Statement from Brad Howard, Mike Ross for Governor campaign spokesperson:

“Down in the polls due to revelations that Congressman Hutchinson cheated on his taxes and then got caught trying to cover it up, he now says he supports a minimum wage ballot measure he didn’t sign and has explicitly opposed for months. After voting against raising the minimum wage multiple times in Congress and now flip flopping on the issue, this is just the latest example of Congressman Hutchinson doing one thing in Washington for his Wall Street allies and saying something completely different to the people of Arkansas in a desperate attempt to win an election.

“Mike Ross says what he means and does what he says because those are the values he learned growing up in small towns in Arkansas, unlike Congressman Hutchinson’s Washington doublespeak he learned as a highly-paid D.C. lobbyist. Mike has consistently voted to raise the minimum wage in Congress, he has consistently supported raising the state’s minimum wage, he signed the petition to get the minimum wage initiative on the ballot, and he will proudly vote to give hardworking Arkansans a raise this November.”

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