Rep. Scott Hamann (D-S. Portland) on LD 611 ($1 Min Wage Inc): Time For Maine Workers to Earn a Fair Wage (Video; Text)
Here is Rep. Scott Hamann’s speech as prepared:
- Thank you for coming.
LD611 does two things. First, it raises the minimum wage by a dollar, and then it indexes it to inflation.
Maine’s minimum wage hasn’t been adjusted since 2009, so as the economy begins its recovery, now is the time. We can all agree- I’m sure- that we should reward work. We should ensure that an honest day’s work is rewarded with an honest paycheck that puts food on the table, clothes on their backs, and oil in the tank.
But just as important as raising the minimum wage now, we should take steps to ensure that as the cost of living goes up year by year, so should the minimum wage. If the cost of things like milk and gas and bread and heating oil go up by only a little bit, LD611 requires that the minimum wage goes up by the same percent as well. This will prevent minimum wage workers from getting a pay cut year by year, decreasing the buying power of their already less than adequate paycheck.
First, if we put money in the hands of the people most likely to spend it and most likely to spend it locally, this drives up consumption in Maine’s economy. If we increase consumption and demand for goods and services, businesses will hire more to keep up with the demand. Just ask Vermont. They indexed their minimum wage to inflation in 2007, so today a minimum wage worker earns $8.60 an hour.
Vermont’s unemployment is under 5%.
Second, we should reward work. Someone who’s willing to work full-time should be paid enough to pay their bills. These are workers- workers who know that getting up each day to go to work means they are guaranteed a paycheck that will still keep them below the poverty threshold- but these workers get up and go to work anyways.
The very least we can do as a state is reward their dedication to Maine’s economy and their commitment to self-reliance and personal responsibility. And that’s something that everyone from every party- Democrat, Republican, Independent, Undeclared, Green- should stand behind. We should reward the virtue of personal responsibility. This should be a non-partisan issue.
LD611 demonstrates that we respect their work and gets them slightly closer to a livable wage. To be clear, the bill’s proposed increase to $8.50 is an extremely modest and conservative step in that direction and indexing to inflation simply ensures that the buying power of the minimum wage rises with the tide of inflation.
Increasing the minimum wage will give a boost to consumption which benefits Maine businesses. But beyond the economic benefits, it’s simply the right thing to do to reward workers who know their paycheck will be less than enough… and they go to work anyway, to do their part to contribute to Maine’s economy.