Senate Republicans Fight for Rural Maine Jobs

Contact:
Krysta West
Communications Director
Senate Republican Office
(207) 287-1505
krysta.west@legislature.maine.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUGUSTA – Senate Republicans voted twice on Tuesday, April 3 to support an amended version of LD 1757 by a vote of 19-16. This bill, as amended, would slow the minimum wage increases to a rate of $0.50 per year until reaching $12.00 in 2022.

“As Chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, I heard from businesses in my district and all around the state, many of whom traveled to Augusta to express their distress at the rate Maine’s minimum wage has increased and is scheduled to continue to escalate,” said Assistant Majority Leader Amy Volk (R-Cumberland). “The referendum law, which passed in 2016, has already increased Maine’s minimum wage by $2.50 and is on pace for a 60% increase within four years, an unprecedented increase for any state, let alone one with a relatively fragile rural economy. As we heard during the 7 1/2 hour public hearing a few months ago, this isn’t sustainable for Maine’s small businesses – particularly those in demographically challenged areas.

“While I wish we could accomplish more with this legislation, such as a training wage, which all New England states other than Vermont have, it is at least an important step toward providing some relief for Maine employers.”

An ice cream stand with four locations that employs more than 150 high schoolers said that with each wage increase, they must also increase the price of their ice cream, and since people are only willing to pay so much for ice cream. As a result, their sales fell by 5.8 percent last season. They said that, “When we are forced to pay a 15-year-old child $12.00 per hour in 2020, I am certain that (we) will no longer be viable as a takeout ice cream stand.”

The store manager of a Bangor-area grocery store testified that, “Payroll is a HUGE expense for any store. I strongly feel these changes are necessary. If nothing changes, as the minimum wage increases, I predict a lot of small businesses folding up as they cannot afford payroll.”

“These are only a few examples of businesses who have contacted legislators to urge them to take action to save their businesses,” said Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin). “These aren’t large corporations who have millions in assets . These are small mom and pop shops who provide important employment opportunities throughout our state – they are the backbone of Maine’s economy.”

“This bill is about fighting hard for jobs in rural Maine and to ensure that there continues to be employment opportunities for our young,” said Senate President Michael Thibodeau. “While I have no doubt that supporters of the minimum wage referendum had good intentions, the reality is that this law, which was written and funded by the Maine People’s Alliance, is extreme. As we now know today, it is hurting the very people it was intended to help. That’s why I urge my colleagues in the Maine House of Representatives to support Maine’s rural economy by supporting this measure.”

The amended version of LD 1757 will now go back to the House of Representatives for consideration. An earlier version of this bill previously failed by only twelve votes.

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