Trade partisanship for action on minimum wage

Exterior view of the Captiol grounds in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012. (Steve Pope/Freelance)
Exterior view of the Captiol grounds in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012. (Steve Pope/Freelance)

It’s been nearly a decade since the Legislature raised Iowa’s minimum wage. Like so many issues in our state and nation, the issue has become a divisive, ideological flashpoint.

Periodic increases in the state minimum should not be an occasion for partisan posturing, but a regular part of the Legislature’s business.

As we’ve argued before, having a minimum wage means increasing it from time to time. The wage should be indexed to provide automatic, periodic and predictable increases. The current political fight is Exhibit A as to why that’s preferable to political squabbling.

Now, largely in reaction to Legislative inaction, counties are finding themselves in the midst of a minimum wage debate.

A working group appointed by the Linn County Board of Supervisors has recommended adopting a local minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. That’s a dollar more than the current state and federal minimum of $7.25. Supervisors and officials in cities across the county must decide what to do next.

Linn County’s push comes after Johnson County voted to phase in a $10.10 minimum. Polk County, home to Iowa’s Capitol, also is considering a local raise.

It’s shameful inaction inside the Capitol that’s driving localities to act. Instead of acting responsibly and in a bipartisan fashion to periodically adjust our minimum, partisan brinkmanship has taken the place of responsible governing.

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When the Legislature approved the last raise in 2007, it did so with support from many Republicans, including Rep. Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, who now is house speaker. Gov. Terry Branstad says he’s open to considering an increase if lawmakers pass it, but he’s done little to make it happen.

Last year, the Democrat-controlled Senate approved legislation raising the minimum to $8.75 with just one Republican voting yes. The GOP-led House refused to take up the bill, and voted along party lines to block a procedural maneuver to force a floor vote.

We applaud the efforts of local leaders to overcome state inaction. But Iowans understand it’s far past time for our legislators and governor to raise Iowa’s minimum wage. A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll earlier this year showed nearly 70 percent of Iowans favor raising the minimum wage. And most of those surveyed overall support an increase to $9 or higher.

Local officials are applying pressure, hoping lawmakers will do the right thing. Iowans should do the same, urging Legislators to act.

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Share your comments and ideas with us: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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