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Maine Minimum Wage Boost "Important Step" Ahead of Trump Administration

There was cause for celebration for supporters of Question 4, as the state minimum wage jumped to $9 an hour over the weekend. (Maine AFL-CIO)
There was cause for celebration for supporters of Question 4, as the state minimum wage jumped to $9 an hour over the weekend. (Maine AFL-CIO)
January 9, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine joined Arizona, Colorado and Washington state over the weekend in boosting its state minimum wage after successful ballot initiatives.

In Maine, the minimum wage jumped to $9 an hour starting on Saturday, and will increase each year by $1 per hour until it reaches $12 in 2020.

Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney says thousands of Mainers helped to get the issue onto the ballot – and considering the current political environment, she says the boost could not have come at a better time.

"We're probably not going to get help from Washington under this administration, based on views on the minimum wage that have expressed by both the president-elect, and his likely-to-be-appointed secretary of labor,” Phinney states. “So, it's an important step for Maine to take, because we're not going to get help from somewhere else."

Gov. Paul LePage has asked lawmakers to change the law to phase in the minimum-wage increase over a longer time period and to remove the automatic increases in the future.

While those changes could be made, most believe they're unlikely, since Question 4 passed by an 11-point margin with 55 percent of Mainers voting “Yes.”

Question 4 also boosted the so- called sub-minimum wage for workers who receive tips from $3.75 to $5 an hour, which also went into effect on Saturday.

Opponents warn the hike will be bad for food service and other businesses, but Phinney disagrees.

"Putting more money into the hands of people who are going to spend it is always good for the economy,” she stresses. “So this is going to be a raise for thousands of hard working Mainers."

Massachusetts leads New England in terms of paying the highest minimum wage, at $11 per hour. Vermont and Connecticut both pay about $10 an hour, and New Hampshire trails with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour that has been in place since 2011.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME