Linn Supervisor proposes $10.25 minimum wage by 2019

"Both a moral and economic imperative"

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County residents could see a $10.25 minimum wage by 2019.

On Monday, Linn County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ben Rogers unveiled his plan to increase the countywide minimum wage by $1 a year for three years starting Jan. 1, 2017.

Rogers said during Monday’s work session he would begin drafting an ordinance to reflect his proposal. It will come back to the full board for three required readings.

“There are few things I feel are both a moral and economic imperative and that’s this,” Rogers said, noting his frustrations with the current federal rate of $7.25 an hour. “This is a poverty wage, this isn’t a livable wage. We’re not even close to there yet, but this is the first step to making it closer to a livable wage.”

Rogers’ proposal comes a few months after Linn County’s board-appointed minimum wage working group recommended supervisors raise the countywide minimum wage to $8.25 in January 2017. The recommendation — spearheaded by Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett — included a caveat that the group would push state lawmakers for a statewide increase and reconvene after next year’s legislative session to discuss possible future increases.

The board is not bound by that recommendation.

However, the strength of Linn County’s ordinance, no matter where the rate is set, hinges on the participating of Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha, where the majority of the county’s population lives and works.

Corbett said Monday his city’s council is supportive of the first increase, but added council member opinions start to differ with future increases — specifically automatic ones.

“As far as the city of Cedar Rapids, I think the council is supportive of taking this first step to $8.25,” Corbett said. “It’s a mixed bag for automatic increases, some people are fine with it and others aren’t.”

Rogers added the board could revisit the ordinance at any time, so a three-year increase could be modified down the road if need be.

He said he’s heard nothing but support from several mayors — but did not specify — and business owners throughout the county.

“Everyone is on board with the first year, I would say more are on board with the second year,” Rogers said. “There isn’t a single business leader I’ve spoken to who said this needs to remain the same.”

Once a county ordinance is passed, city councils will have the option to follow the county rate or pass a counter ordinance to set their own minimum wage or stick with the state/federal wage.

Supervisor John Harris, who represents the county’s rural district, said he was undecided on the matter, but encouraged the public to share their viewpoints.

On Thursday, the county will host a minimum wage forum — set for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Beems Auditorium, 450 Fifth Ave. SE — to gather public comments on the potential ordinance.

Forum panelists are to include Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers, Iowa Policy Project Research Director Peter Fisher, local business owner Richard Pankey and minimum wage study group member Sofia Mehaffey.

Attendees will be able to submit written questions during the event.

KCRG-TV9’s Bruce Aune is set to moderate the forum, which will air live on KCRG 9.2.

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 will reach $10.10 an hour.

Polk County also is considering a wage ordinance and supervisors in Wapello County voted last week to schedule a hearing on the idea.

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