As a member of the Linn County Board of Supervisors Minimum Wage Study Group, I think it is important to clarify some things about our meeting on June 20. No, we did not “kick the can down the road” as reported by Tom Mohan and no, Mayor Corbett did not “railroad” the study group.
The text of the entire proposal was not printed in The Gazette. We agreed to recommend that the Linn County Board of Supervisors enact a minimum wage hike of $8.25 effective Jan. 1, 2017, with the stipulation that our group reconvene after the next legislative session. It was the majority wish to add additional raises to the minimum wage at that time, contingent upon the Iowa Legislature’s action on this critical issue.
Although the Iowa Senate has passed a minimum wage hike at least twice, the House continues to deny low-wage Iowans a living wage. This is a delicate political dance, and Mayor Corbett made it clear that we need to begin with a single step where the study group, the Board of Supervisors and the Cedar Rapids City Council, as well as the mayors and councils of Marion and Hiawatha, can find common ground.
The majority of the members of the study group, including myself, feel passionate about helping our most vulnerable citizens. Only by being keenly aware of opposing views will we be able to reach our goal of raising the minimum wage in Linn County to a meaningful level, hopefully to $10.10 as was enacted in Johnson County. It should be stated that the board of supervisors is under no mandate to act on our recommendation and may very well come up with their own proposal.
The Iowa Legislature has indeed “kicked the can down the road” for several years now. It is critical that they address wage stagnation in Iowa for low-wage earners. FOrty-seven percent of Cedar Rapids’ schoolchildren are on free and reduced lunch. The increasing poverty in our community is a direct result of a minimum wage that hasn’t risen for over 8-and-a-half years, the longest period of any other state.
• Karla Goettel is a member of the Linn County minimum wage work study group and serves on the Public Policy Committee of the board of directors at Horizons.