Koch brothers attack Maine minimum wage referendum

Koch brothers attack Maine minimum wage referendum

At a press conference at the State House in Augusta yesterday, the Maine Heritage Policy Center launched their campaign against the minimum wage increase referendum, Question 4 on November’s ballot. The initiative seeks to raise the state minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also increase the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to the full minimum wage over a longer timeframe and increase the wage by the cost of living in future years.

Among other extreme claims, a business owner representing the Center asserted that the referendum, which is projected to raise incomes for 181,000 Mainers and their families, would simply allow low-wage workers to buy more drugs.

“Where would that money be spent? We’ve heard about the opiate issues in the state of Maine. Are we going to add more income to individuals so they can spend it on illegal activities? I’m very concerned about that,” said Rick Snow, owner of Maine Indoor Karting.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center receives funding from a constellation of groups with ties to brothers Charles and David Koch, a pair of billionaire oil magnates who have founded and funded much of the national conservative advocacy infrastructure. Like the Center, they oppose the existence of any minimum wage at all.

“Raising Maine’s minimum wage is about single mothers struggling to raise kids on poverty wages and seniors who work hard and can’t afford to retire,” said Mainers for Fair Wages campaign manager Amy Halsted in a fundraising appeal in response. “We need to show these corporate billionaires just how many regular people support giving a real raise to thousands of Mainers who are working long hours at hard jobs and struggling to scrape by.”

The Center claims that a new report they’ve written, which they have not yet released online, shows a minimum wage increase will lead to increased unemployment and price increases. That position represents a significant break from other anti-minimum wage groups in Maine who, while opposing the initiative, have cited well-regarded research showing that an increase to $12 an hour by 2020 would not incur those negative effects.

A recent, comprehensive report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy found that “a $12 minimum wage would lift wages for one in three working Mainers, putting economic security more in reach for tens of thousands of Mainers and their families and creating an economy that works better for everyone.”

According to research by MECEP and the Economic Policy Institute, the initiative will raise wages for the parents of 63,000 children in Maine.

A poll released yesterday by the Portland Press Herald found that 60% of Maine voters support Question 4, with 28% opposed.

Image: still from MHPC video stream

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