Gov. LePage will attempt minimum wage rollback, but Democrats stand firm

Gov. LePage will attempt minimum wage rollback, but Democrats stand firm

In a letter sent to incoming lawmakers and released publicly yesterday, Maine Governor Paul LePage railed against the recently-passed minimum wage increase referendum and said he would back legislation to halt the raises.

Falsely claiming that the measure will harm Maine’s elderly, LePage wrote that “Mainers did not understand the specifics of the referendum they approved” when voting in favor of Question 4.

LePage says he intends to delay the implementation of the minimum wage increases, cancel future raises based on the cost of living and strip away base wage increases for workers like restaurant servers who also receive tips.

More voters cast ballots on Question 4 than voted for president, and the measure passed by a double-digit margin. With that kind of public support and with Democrats holding a majority in the House of Representatives, LePage’s plans seems unlikely to succeed.

Democratic leaders were quick to push back against the governor.

“Of all the questions that passed, that’s the one that passed with the largest margin,” Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden told Maine Public Radio. “About 55 percent is a pretty strong vote.”

“I think people spoke clearly,” he added.

Asked about rollback attempts on a conservative talk radio show last week, incoming House Speaker Sarah Gideon also defended the referendum result.

“People can’t find the kind of jobs that used to exist,” said Gideon. “I very much believe that having a livable minimum wage is an important thing for people in this state, especially right now. I don’t think it is a hindrance to building businesses.”

She ruled out revisiting the issue this session, saying they would “watch and see what happens and, if necessary, adjust in future years.”

Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50 an hour hasn’t been raised in eight years. Under current law, it will increase to $9 an hour in January and then by a dollar each year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020, with cost of living adjustments thereafter. The subminimum base wage for tipped workers, which has been stuck at $3.75 an hour since last raised by the legislature, will increase gradually over the next decade until it reaches the full minimum wage in 2027.

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