The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 7, 2013

Minimum wage fight gains momentum with Obama support, election wins


A minimum wage increase would likely be more significant in the South, where wages are lower, and it would affect more workers. In fact, South Carolina and four other Southern states have no local minimum wage law. And while Georgia’s local minimum wage is $5.15, companies are required by law to pay the higher $7.25 federal rate.

Zandi does not expect too many municipalities to follow in SeaTac’s footsteps out of fear that local businesses will jump town borders with their tax dollars. SeaTac is a special case, with a major business, the airport, unlikely to move anytime soon.

By and large, voters support minimum wage increases. A Gallup poll in March found that seven in 10 Americans would vote for raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour.

If organizers can get enough signatures, a minimum wage hike is expected to be on the November 2014 ballots in Alaska, Idaho and South Dakota, according to the National Employment Law Project. And at least 10 states — including Illinois, Washington and Massachusetts — have active minimum-wage campaigns.

With the economy sputtering along and many family incomes continuing to decline, it’s no surprise that voters are sympathetic to those making the least. But Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director, sees the votes more as “a triumph of good intentions over good economics.”

The minimum wage may not destroy jobs, he said, but it does stop many businesses from hiring — a top national priority. The result is that those with jobs benefit, but not those without jobs.

Obama may use the opportunity to turn up the heat on the issue, but Holtz-Eakin expects it’ll be to make Republicans look unsympathetic to poorer Americans, and not because it’s a legitimate economic fix.

“I can’t imagine that his economic advisers are saying, ‘Great idea,’ ” Holtz-Eakin said. “They need to do better from an economic point of view. And this is not a pro-growth policy.”

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