As I’m sure you already know, certain politicians in the state of Maine, led by the Maine People’s Alliance, wish to raise the minimum wage. Although their plan may seem harmless, it would be detrimental to the already struggling economies of our state. In short, this tiered plan would raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2017, and $1 a year until 2020, where it will sit at $12 an hour. Past this point, however, it may rise and fall with the cost of living. Workers who earn tips would see a minimum pay increase as well, and by 2024 would be on an even plane with all other workers. This plan is not just poorly timed for our community, but fiscally irresponsible.
In the last twenty years, the state of Maine has suffered more than its share of economic hardships. An economy reliant on old mills and factories was not expected to last, but it was also not expected to end so abruptly. Although Maine’s traditional economies based on logging, fisheries and farming are still a very important anchor, new industry such as technology, biomass production and other small business startups have taken root to fill the growing void. These new startups are often times small businesses owned and operated by young, educated and returning Mainers.
Our fragile economy is growing at a rate slower than most of the country and it could be diminished all too quickly. It is no secret that economy will be grown on the back entrepreneurs and their small businesses. These businesses are already running on investments, loans and frugal decisions. They hire what they need, pay what they can afford, and often times breaking even in the first ten years of business is seen as a success. Raising the minimum wage to such a level that would put strain on our business owners does not prevent poverty, it merely encourages it.
What people do not seem to understand is that by forcing all companies to pay out an incessant amount of money to low-level employees will force them to cut elsewhere; whether that comes from operating cost, upgrades to equipment, or basic maintenance of the physical location itself. “Take the money out of their pay,” many liberals would gaff, but the irony is that many small business owners take barely enough to get by.
Maine’s small business owners are not the “fat cats” that the liberal media would like you to believe. As a matter of fact, most small business owners in Maine work longer hours and make very little money in comparison to their employees and peers elsewhere. How can we force people to pay out money that is simply not there?
Yes, the minimum wage should be re-evaluated every five to ten years. But this is merely an adjustment to inflation, not an adjustment to allow a high school student working part-time at the local coffee shop the ability to purchase a house by senior year. We must not allow ourselves to believe the illusion that throwing other people’s money into the air will stimulate our economy. We must be fiscally responsible and respectful of our job creators when raising minimum wage. After all, business and industry is flourishing outside of Maine, taking our young women and men with it. If we want our economy to flourish, we need to not just worry about our workers, but work closely with our job creators as well.
As our fledgling, twenty-first century economy grows and stabilizes, our business owners will have the ability to not only hire more workers, but to pay them more, promote them and give them the power to build something greater for the next generation. The time is now to foster growth in Maine’s business.