For some time, we’ve seen Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer defend inaction on a state minimum wage increase with the excuse that they’re focused on better paying jobs.
Now, many lawmakers and the business promotion groups of the Iowa Chamber Alliance are zeroed in on making sure no county or city officials should act locally to correct an indefensibly low state minimum wage of $7.25.
These folks really need to get their stories straight. It appears their real interest may be in recruiting low-wage employers.
In Saturday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance policy strategist Barbra Solberg says “it’s hard for recruiting purposes to tell a company that we have 65 different minimum wages throughout the state.”
Well, which is it? Are we focused on high-paying or at least living-wage jobs, or are we actively recruiting companies that will pay the minimum wage? And how much is the Alliance hoping to give away to those companies with the “full funding” it wants for tax breaks? How much will Iowans pay for low-wage jobs?
While we’re at it, what is this nonsense about “65 different” minimums?
Four counties — not 65 — have embraced the demands of leadership and acted to raise local minimums, phasing in increases to between $10.10 and $10.75 from Iowa’s 9-year-old minimum wage of $7.25.
The Alliance does not even suggest an increase — only keeping it the same statewide “regardless of what it would be,” Solberg says. While the wage has remained stagnant, business tax credits have roughly tripled over that time.
Iowa needs a more responsible statewide wage, but local wage markets can easily justify setting that higher — as elected officials in four counties have determined is necessary to promote their local prosperity.
If uniformity is such a concern, is the Quad Cities Chamber pushing for the state of Iowa to raise the wage to Illinois’ level — $8.25 — or to Nebraska’s $9, since a statewide uniform wage is the Iowa chambers’ goal? Or are the Iowa chambers just happy to compete for the lowest wage jobs and to let Illinois and Nebraska and South Dakota ($8.55) and Minnesota ($9.50) get the better paying ones?
For an illustration of real-world ingredients of prosperity, see the analysis here by Peter Fisher of the Iowa Policy Project: http://www.gradingstates.org/the-real-path-to-state-prosperity/