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Maine Minimum Wage Could Become Highest in Country

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A coalition comprised of three liberal political entities in the state of Maine have cashed in enough signatures with the Secretary of State’s Office to put a referendum on the ballot for the upcoming election cycle intended to increase Maine’s minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Last week, the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA), the Maine AFL-CIO, and the Maine Small Business Coalition (MSBC) announced they turned in more than 75,000 signatures in hopes of letting Maine voters decide their state’s minimum wage requirements.  The referendum proposes an increase to $12 an hour by 2020.

Under this proposal, the minimum wage in Maine would become $9 an hour by 2017 and would increase annually by $1, until the minimum wage is at the $12 mark by 2020.  The increase to $12 an hour would give Maine the highest minimum wage of any state in the country – not exactly a bonus for a state desperately in need of new business and outside capital.

But naturally, after several left-leaning political organizations failed to pass a minimum wage increase in the liberal safe haven of Portland, it only seems fitting for them to offer a similar proposal to the entire state.

Last November, voters in Portland shot down a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour with 58 percent of the vote.  Green Independents were out-strategized by their political adversaries, mainly the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, which started a PAC called “Too Far, Too Fast” and ran television and radio ads against the legislation in their city before the election.  The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce cited the adverse effects minimum wage hikes have on small businesses as their primary point of opposition.

Which might make you wonder: How could the Maine Small Business Coalition be on board with this proposal?

Because the MSBC is essentially a wing of MPA, created so liberals in Maine could attach the word “small business” to their legislative agenda, hoping that the general public won’t understand why they truly exist.  The MSBC is an astroturf organization that exclusively promotes liberal ideals with little knowledge of the problems it creates for Maine businesses.

What issues is the MSBC most passionate about, you ask?  Ironically, the MSBC only endorses policies that have either no correlation to business whatsoever, or ones that harm our state’s business climate entirely.

According to the MSBC’s website, their goals are to enact robust environmental protections in Maine, apply stronger regulations for Wall Street, ensure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share in taxes, and promote comprehensive immigration reform.

Sounds almost exactly like Bernie Sanders’ platform for the presidency, minus some free stuff.

For some reason, it’s hard for me to believe that a coalition of small business owners in Maine is truly hung up on comprehensive immigration reform.  Especially considering the cost of doing business in Maine is still 6.4 percent above the national average.

What Maine liberals need to understand is that 97 percent of business in Maine is conducted by small businesses.  Additionally, 95 percent of Maine businesses have 50 or fewer employees.

These aren’t multi-billion dollar corporations operated by loaded business tycoons like the progressive Democrats of Maine want you to believe.  These are people like you and I, trying to rejuvenate the entrepreneurial spirit in Maine by starting their own business.  Many of these business owners don’t see profits for a few years and certainly couldn’t afford to pay their lowest skilled workers and incredibly enhanced wage.

Peter Gore, the vice president for government relations at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, told the Portland Press Herald that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour is “really beyond the ability of many, many small businesses.”

It’s all too common in Maine that progressive special interests nudge their way into the political discourse with oversimplified policy suggestions that do little to tackle the root of the problem.  Raising the minimum wage in Maine to $12 an hour sounds great for the average worker, but if this wage hike takes shape in our state, many of our small, locally-owned and operated businesses, will inevitably close their doors.

That won’t stop this coalition of liberal entities from campaigning for this change, however.  They will continue to pretend that they are the small business authority of Maine all the way up until November.  Hopefully by then, Maine voters will see through this façade and make a decision that actually promotes the interests of small businesses in Maine.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at MHPC. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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