There still is time for Gov. Terry Branstad to stop legislation that will reaffirm a statewide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, a figure set nearly a decade ago, and strip local elected officials’ ability to raise it within their jurisdictions.
At the time of this writing, Branstad had not yet signed House File 295, approved by House and Senate Republicans.
He should decline to do so.
It was legislative inaction that led supervisors in five Iowa counties — Johnson, Linn, Wapello, Polk and, just this week, Lee — to spur wage increases that better match local costs of living. Legislators’ response was not to debate the merits of increasing the state minimum wage, or even just to leave well enough alone, but to pass House File 295, which voids local minimum wage increases and takes three more swipes at local control.
Under House File 295. paid family leave, taxes on soft drinks and incentives related to plastic grocery bags would all be brought under the sole discretion of state government. Those additional restrictions send a clear signal that House File 295 is intended to put supervisors in their place.
But we can understand the frustration that led local lawmakers to take action where state lawmakers have failed to do so. When a full-time worker can’t pay for essential needs, taxpayers and communities must bridge the gap. From food pantries to volunteer health clinics to homeless shelters, it’s local resources that are stretched thin.
In recognition of the increasing disconnect between the cost of living and minimum wage, 21 states and Washington, D.C. all have or will raise their minimum wages this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven of those states — Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota — did so automatically, based on the cost of living.
But in Iowa, even as the governor signaled his support for a uniform and increased statewide wage, lawmakers pushed forward with this unbalanced proposal. A stronger message is in order.
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There’s no doubt the nation’s longest serving governor has stockpiles of political capital. We urge him to spend some of it on behalf of our state’s lowest-paid workers.
Send the bill back. Tell lawmakers that if they want to maintain a consistent minimum across the state, they’ll have to increase the minimum wage.
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