Minimum wage question headed toward 2016 ballot in Maine

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AUGUSTA — Leaders of a statewide referendum campaign to incrementally boost Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $12 an hour by 2025 said Wednesday they would deliver more than 80,000 petition signatures to the secretary of state’s office Thursday.

The campaign, Mainers for Fair Wages, needed just over 61,000 signatures from Maine voters to put the question on the ballot in 2016. The group plans to hold a State House rally after the signatures are delivered on Thursday at about 12:30 p.m. in the Hall of Flags.

Campaign volunteer Katie Logue of Auburn said Maine’s current minimum wage, which is 25 cents higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, just wasn’t enough to live on.

“I work at a convenience store for just over the state minimum wage and I struggle to support myself and my family,” Logue said in a prepared statement. “When you’re this close to the edge, one emergency can ruin everything. It wasn’t too long ago that we were forced to live in a homeless shelter while I was working full time but unable to keep up with the bills.”

Logue said she helped collect hundreds of signatures for the campaign and that boosting the wage would not only help struggling Mainers but would grow the state’s economy.

“It just isn’t right that there are people like me all over the state who are working hard every day but can’t get ahead,” Logue said.

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But opponents to a minimum wage hike said Wednesday it would hurt the very people it is intended to help.

Liam Sigaud, a policy analyst with the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think tank, said low-skilled workers would be damaged the most from a minimum wage hike.

“The minimum wage motivates businesses to discriminate against these workers in favor of higher-skilled labor that can justify the government-imposed level of compensation,” Sigaud wrote in an email Thursday. “As a result, unemployment for young people entering the workforce tends to rise when minimum wage increases take effect, depriving many entrants into the labor force critical work experience that can soon lead to a higher salary.”

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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