AUGUSTA -- The Maine House on Wednesday voted for a measure to give a much-needed boost to the minimum wage, which stands at $7.50 an hour and has remained at that level since 2009.
The House voted 86-58 to accept the bill as amended by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.
The bill, LD 611, “An Act To Adjust Maine's Minimum Wage Annually Based on Cost-of-living Changes,” would raise the minimum wage to $8.00 per hour beginning July 1, 2014. The rate would then increase to $8.50 per hour beginning July 1, 2015 and $9.00 per hour beginning July 1, 2016. Beginning July 1, 2017, the minimum wage would be automatically adjusted for inflation annually.
"We should ensure that when Mainers put in an honest day's work, they are rewarded with an honest paycheck that puts food on the table, clothes on their backs and fuel in the oil tank,” said Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, the bill’s sponsor. “We need to get Mainers closer to earning a living wage so we can grow our economy from the middle out.”
Mainers working full-time minimum-wage jobs earn $15,600 a year.
The measure would provide modest, incremental increases in the minimum wage, Hamann said. Low-wage workers who would benefit from the bill would be the most likely to spend that money in Maine’s economy, he said.
“Increasing the minimum wage puts money in people’s hands. And they in turn spend it in their communities,” Hamann said.
During the floor debate, Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, spoke about a mass layoff at a manufacturing plant in her community. She told how many of the displaced workers were able to find only minimum-wage work that was insufficient to support their families.
“This is $15,600 annually for a full-time job. This is less than $240 a week you’re getting. These people are parents. How can you provide for a family on $240 a week?” said Herbig, House chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. “In Maine, we should not just reward wealth. We should reward wealth and work.”
The House rejected attempts to further amend the bill on the floor.
Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans only grew by $59 on average between 1966 and 2011 when you adjust those incomes for inflation.