Maine Democratic leaders stand strong against minimum wage hostage-taking

Maine Democratic leaders stand strong against minimum wage hostage-taking

“That is a non-starter for Democrats,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond on Friday when asked by Maine Public Radio about the latest attempt by Republicans in Augusta to throw a wrench in the works of Maine’s minimum wage referendum. Republican Appropriations Committee member Rep. Jeff Timberlake announced on Thursday night that members of his party would be withholding funding for a wide range of recently-passed legislation unless a competing measure is placed on the November ballot, making it more difficult for voters to pass a minimum wage increase.

The proposed competing measure, advanced by an alliance of corporate lobbyists and based on a major math error, has already been voted down twice in the Maine House.

“I think this is just a last-ditch attempt – a really desperate attempt to continue to suppress workers’ wages and not address the serious concerns of our state,” Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves was quoted as saying in the same article.

The bills in question include funding to address Maine’s opioid crisis, to combat food insecurity, to address local education budget shortfalls and to raise wages for police officers, home care providers and psychiatric caregivers, among many other priorities. Many of the bills were written and sponsored by Republicans, including a measure to provide tuition breaks for Maine National Guard members sponsored by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette.

Public reaction to the Republicans’ position has been incredulous, with commenters on social media accusing them of engaging in legislative hostage-taking and blackmail and being beholden to corporate lobbyists.

“I’d like to invite Republican leadership to come tour an overflowing County Jail, sit in on a school budget meeting, talk to an elderly property taxpayer, meet with some of the countless Mainers struggling with a family member’s addiction, or tour our state’s shattered rural economy,” wrote Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague in a public Facebook post. “It’s like it is a game to these people in Augusta. Everyone living in the real world is getting pretty sick of it.”

Photo via Andi Parkinson.

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