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Maine House Blocks Effort to Roll Back Minimum Wage

The Maine House of Representatives voted 81-69 to block a rollback of the minimum wage. (rmr2u/Wikimedia Commons)
The Maine House of Representatives voted 81-69 to block a rollback of the minimum wage. (rmr2u/Wikimedia Commons)
March 23, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine's House of Representatives has defeated an effort to stop voter-approved increases in the state's minimum wage.

In a largely party-line vote, the House said no to LD 1757, a bill that would have stopped increases due in 2019 and 2020, delayed cost of living increases, and lowered wages for younger workers.

Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, praised the majority of legislators who cast their votes against the bill. He says two years after the increases started taking effect, the impact is clear.

"We have one of the lowest unemployment rates we've seen in a long time; we have jobs being added to the Maine economy,” says Schlobohm. “All of the 'sky-is-falling' arguments that were made by opponents of this – not a single one of them has come true."

The measure was introduced by Gov. Paul LePage, who said raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour will result in job losses and fewer opportunities for younger workers.

But Schlobohm contends that raising wages for the lowest-paid workers helps the entire state economy.

"People are buying bread, they're buying gas, they're buying food, and that's helping local businesses,” he says. “So, we think raising wages is a win/win – where workers do better, their families do better and the overall economy does better."

LD 1757 now goes to the state Senate, where the Republican majority is expected to approve the measure – but the House vote likely means the end of the effort for this year.

The minimum-wage increase was approved by a wide margin in a 2016 voter referendum. Schlobohm says traditionally with such initiatives, voters have had the final word.

"It's been a very disturbing trend that we've seen increasingly in Maine in the last few years, where legislators have not respected the will of the voters in the way that we think they should," he says.

He expects opponents of the minimum-wage increases will mount a new rollback effort next year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME