January 17 Radio Address

 

They say elections have consequences, and in the case of the minimum-wage law that passed by referendum in 2016, the unintended consequences are harming our most vulnerable citizens.

Hi, I’m Jeff Timberlake, the Assistant Republican Leader in the Maine Senate. A few weeks ago, the minimum wage increased for the third time in three years as part of the sweeping minimum-wage referendum that passed in 2016.

As predicted by Republicans, certain sectors of the economy are struggling to keep up with the rapid wage inflation, and those who are most impacted are our elderly, those living on fixed incomes and rural Mainers.

In my own community, a beloved breakfast establishment, On the Way Café, had to close their doors on January 1 because they couldn’t absorb yet another wage increase, and there are more increases yet to come.

In only three years’ time, the minimum wage has gone up by $3.50 an hour. That’s a lot for any business to handle. Next year, it will increase by another dollar, resulting in a 60 percent increase in the minimum wage spread out over only four years’ time.

To compensate for wage inflation, the cost of living in Maine has increased for everyone. From the cost of daycare for working families to the cost of groceries, eating a meal at a restaurant and buying an ice cream cone at the local ice cream parlor, everyone is beginning to feel the pinch.

But some have not been able to increase prices to compensate for the added cost of doing business.

Last session, the legislature passed emergency legislation to provide an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for companies that provide critical home-based and community-based care. These services that cover some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens were in jeopardy as the inflation of minimum wage outpaced the rate that providers were reimbursed by the state.

We also passed emergency funding to help nursing homes cover their increasing overhead costs. These emergency funds, while necessary, were only a band-aid, as these needs will arise each year with the increasing wage.

Maine’s population is the oldest in the country. It’s critical that we take care of our elderly and allow them to age with dignity and remain in their own homes for as long as possible. That’s why I am sponsoring legislation to index the MaineCare reimbursement rate paid to nursing homes and other adult care facilities to the minimum wage.

We can’t allow our elderly on fixed incomes and disabled to be harmed by an unreasonable minimum wage law.

Also suffering are bottle redemption centers, as the increased overhead has proved to be too high of a burden for some. The reimbursement rate for bottle returns is set by statute and not responsive to the minimum wage law, making it increasingly difficult for businesses to recoup the cost of wage increases.

Recently, a bottle redemption center in Bangor that has been in operation for 36-years announced that they can’t afford $11 an hour, so they are closing their doors. In addition to helping keep our roadways and transfer stations free of recyclable bottles, this business once created 17 jobs for area residents. I am sure the people of that community will feel this loss as they will now have to travel further to recycle bottles and these jobs will no longer exist.

To help the bottle redemption centers that have managed to hold on, I have submitted legislation to investigate how we can help these businesses survive. They provide an important service for our state, and we need to be sure that they have every opportunity to stay afloat.

These are only a couple minimum wage-related bills that I have submitted this session. I look forward to continuing this important discussion with my colleagues in Augusta.

Thanks for listening.

3 thoughts on “January 17 Radio Address

  1. Thank you for your excellent letter. And, thank you for your efforts to address the minimum wage hikes on non-profit organizations that provide critical services to our most needy citizens. The Medicaid hike helped pay our entry level workers, but it didn’t address the problem that was created for our long term staff who worked for 4 or 5 years and developed strong skills only to watch their wages stay flat while entry level staff came in at the same wage they were already earning. Another impact of the increase is on employers who used to willingly hire on workers with disabilities to handle entry level positions at the bottle depot, ice cream store and other entry level opportunities that can no longer afford to. This has led to people who dearly wanted to work who are losing out on competitive job opportunities out in the community, which, as you probably know, ends up costing the state more.
    Regards,
    Greg Fraser

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  2. Hello Senator Foley – thank you for sending the info. In regard to the list of bills introduced, do you happen to know of a source that provides a description of each one. While many of the titles are self-descriptive, many are not. Thank you.
    In regard to the increase in the minimum wage, I am semi-retired and most definitely on a fixed income. That one dollar increase in my hourly rate will be a huge boon this summer when I begin my seasonal part-time job. I put the money away to help pay for oil bills and groceries over the winter, as do two of the retired ladies I work with. So I am very grateful for it, and I know they are too. Thank you, Janice Vance, 61 Brown St., Kennebunk

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    • Hello Janice,

      Bill descriptions will become available as bills are drafted. You will be able to find the descriptions on the legislative website once LD numbers are assigned.

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