On Thursday, the Portland Green Independent Committee announced that it will be pushing to double the minimum wage in Maine’s largest city from $7.50 per hour to $15.00 per hour.
Citing a belief that increasing the minimum wage will spur economic growth, the Greens declared their intent to put the issue to a city-wide referendum.
The group claims that this large increase would create a so-called ‘living wage,’ or the salary needed to maintain a normal standard of living in Maine without any government assistance.
Maine’s minimum wage is already 25 cents higher than the federal minimum.
However, a more modest minimum wage proposal from Portland Mayor Mike Brennan is already facing considerable opposition from businesses and elected-officials in Maine. Brennan’s plan would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by July 1. It would then jump to $10.10 in 2016 and $10.68 in 2017. After 2017, the minimum wage would be held in line with the Consumer Price Index.
But after meeting criticism from members of the businesses community, particularly restaurant owners, Brennan’s plan has stalled in Portland City Council’s Finance Committee.
A large percentage of minimum wage workers are younger or low-skilled individuals who are employed in the food-service industry. Additionally, waiters and waitresses, and all those who earn tip income, are required to receive a base wage that is at least half the minimum wage. A dramatic increase to the minimum wage could thus place many restaurant business owners in a difficult financial position.
Governor Paul LePage has already expressed his opposition to Brennan’s plan, and has argued that establishing a citywide minimum wage may be unconstitutional.
But for the Portland Greens, Mayor Brennan’s proposal does not go far enough. They assert the plan would provide few benefits and would do little to help people afford to live in Portland. A livable wage, according to the group, would spur economic growth and help revitalize the city.
The group rejects the idea that a substantial minimum wage increase would result in significant job loss or other negative economic consequences.
Details for the minimum wage referendum will be finalized in the coming weeks.