Linn County supervisors pass first reading of minimum wage ordinance without CPI language

Measure would increase rate to $10.25 by 2019

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County’s minimum wage ordinance has passed its first reading, but with the removal of future increases based on the Consumer Price Index.

The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 4-1 — with District 5 Supervisor John Harris in the minority — in favor of a countywide ordinance that would raise the minimum wage by a dollar a year until it reaches $10.25 at the start of 2019.

However, the board removed draft language from the ordinance that would have implemented future annual increases to the local rate based on data from the Consumer Price Index’s Midwest region.

District 4 Supervisor Brent Oleson said he would prefer to have a future board take up its own discussion regarding additional increases to the minimum wage in 2020, rather than mandate those numbers now.

“I just think this formula takes away our ability to think and do what’s right based on the circumstances at that time,” Oleson said. “I’ll leave it up to the future board to decide what to do.”

Supervisors voted 4-1 to remove the Consumer Price Index language, with District 3 Supervisor Ben Rogers, who proposed the CPI increases, casting the dissenting vote. He said nothing in the ordinance prevents a future board from making amendments.

In voting against the final draft of the minimum wage ordinance, Harris said he’s not opposed to raising the minimum wage, but noted the three-phase increase has some of his constituents concerned.

“From what I’ve been able to glean from my communications with them, they’re OK with bringing the minimum wage up,” he said. “But the extra dollar bump in 2018 and another dollar in 2019 — out on that horizon is what’s worrying them.”

A handful of Linn County residents spoke during public comment, offering different viewpoint on the minimum wage topic. Some argue the board shouldn’t touch it, others applauded supervisors for their efforts, while some pushed supervisors to aim higher — for a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Last week, a Polk County minimum wage task force decided on a final recommendation to the county’s Board of Supervisors to raise the minimum wage to $10.75 an hour by 2019. The recommendation includes a cost of living adjustment and setting a youth wage at 85 percent of the minimum wage.

The Wapello County Board of Supervisors are in the midst of three readings of a minimum wage ordinance that would begin three annual 95-cent increases on Jan. 1, 2017. The minimum wage rate in that county would reach $10.10 in 2019, if the proposal passes.

Johnson County was the first in Iowa to adopt a higher minimum wage ordinance. The ordinance passed the five-member board last year, and this May marked the second of three 95-cent-an-hour increases to the county rate. On Jan. 1, it is to reach $10.10 an hour. Future increases in Johnson County are to be tied to the consumer price index.

In Linn County, the board must vote two more times before the measure passes. The board is expected to take up the discussion again at its meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, at the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW in Cedar Rapids. The third and final reading would take place at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12.

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