On March 23, the Maine State Legislature in Augusta heard proposals to raise Maine’s minimum wage, which has remained at $7.50 per hour since 2009.
The Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee heard eight proposals, reported The Poland Press Herald in an article on Monday. Seven were public proposals, and one came from Republican Senator Tom Saviello, who proposed a bill on banning microbeads in cosmetics earlier this year.
Supporters of the proposals said to lawmakers that granting workers higher wages would spur economic growth. However, many Republicans claimed that a minimum wage hike would kill jobs; supporters of the proposals rejected these claims.
Last year the Congressional Budget Office Report found that raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour could cost half a million jobs, the Herald reported. Republican Governor LePage previously vetoed a minimum wage hike in 2013.
Julie Rabinowitz, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor, stated that LePage’s administration believes that raising the minimum wage will not address the causes of poverty such as a lack of skills for good paying jobs.
“Simply raising the minimum wage leaves these people still at the bottom of the skills and earnings ladder without the ability to climb it,” Rabinowitz said to the Herald.
Rabinowitz and the administration anticipate that wages will increase naturally due to the state’s demographic challenges.
Portland mother Karen Cairnduff traveled to Augusta to support a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $12. Cairnduff told the Herald that she spent little time with her two sons while working her minimum wage job at McDonald’s because she had to work extra shifts to provide for her family.
A minimum wage worker who works full-time earns $15,600 annually, which is $4,190 below the federal poverty level, reported the Associated Press (AP).
According to an AP article published on the WMTW News webpage Monday, many of the bills were proposed by Democrats. The proposed minimum wages ranged from $8.10 to $12.00 per hour.
Opponents say hiking the minimum wage would lead to job losses and higher prices for consumers.
Wendyll Caisse, co-owner of Buck’s Naked BBQ with her husband in Freeport, said to the AP that she may have to increase her menu costs by 5 percent if minimum wage is increased.
Anne Perrino, who has been waitressing for 20 years, also struggles to provide for herself and her son, reported AP.
“Most of the time it’s enough; sometimes it’s not,” Perrino told the AP. “That uncertainty—not knowing whether I’ll make enough to pay my bills from week to week—makes my life harder than it needs to be…I can tell you I’ve put up with inappropriate comments, requests, touching from customers, but because them being happy means the difference between my making rent or not, I often just smile and put up with it,” Perrino said.
More than half of the Mainers who work minimum wage are under the age of 25, according to state labor statistics.
President Obama is leading a national push to raise the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour.