The Maine House has approved a bill that would incrementally increase the minimum wage in the state to $9 per hour.

The Senate tabled the bill recently, as it would have a fiscal impact.

The bill must go through the appropriations process ”“ as it has been relegated to the “special appropriations table,” and will not be considered until the end of the session when the biennial budget has been completed.

Ericka Dodge, communications director for the Senate Democrats, said last week that the bill has a fiscal note, as it would impact the budget. State employees who make minimum wage would see an increase in their pay with the implementation of the law, which would in turn increase the budget. Dodge said any bill with a fiscal note is tabled until the budget has been completed, and then each of those bills will be considered. The minimum wage bill will not likely be decided until late May or early June, she said.

However, when the Legislature does consider the issue, we hope it will weigh the merits of the proposal.

Some employers and those who lobby for companies ”“ like the Maine State Chamber of Commerce ”“ testified against the bill. In his testimony at a public hearing on the bill, Peter Gore, of the State Chamber of Commerce, said the increase would tie the hands of business owners and it would be another deterrent for new businesses in a state that has been deemed one of the most costly for businesses.

At the same time, however, Mainers experience higher quality of life because of our natural resources and other benefits ”“ like well-paying jobs. Companies locate here because of the quality of life, education system and job market, and will continue to even if the minimum wage were raised.

This bill’s passage would also mean moving many Mainers closer to a living wage.

In York County, the living wage for a single adult is $9.91 per hour, while the living wage for an adult and child jumps to $21.38, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator. The website defines a living wage as “the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family, if they are the sole provider and are working full time.”

Currently, Maine’s minimum wage is $7.50, and although that’s higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, it’s far from a living wage in this area, and with rising costs of living ”“ from food to fuel to health care ”“ people are feeling the pinch without relief in their paychecks.

Bringing up the minimum wage would send a message that Maine values its workers and wants everyone to be successful in their careers. It would also encourage those on benefits such as unemployment or welfare to find permanent work, as their pay would enable them to afford to live and work in the state.

Other states have minimum wages that are higher than the federal rate, and Vermont adopted an indexed minimum wage in 2007, according to the Associated Press ”“ with success. The state has seen unemployment of less than 5 percent. Its minimum wage is currently $8.60 an hour ”“ the highest in the region ”“ and is indexed to inflation.

The Maine Department of Labor website reports that York County’s not-seasonally adjusted jobless rate was more than 8 percent in January and February. Seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment was at 7.3 percent in February.

The proposal before the Legislature now would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in three increments, ending July 1, 2016. The minimum after that would be adjusted annually for inflation.

The minimum wage has remained at $7.50 since 2009.

Increasing the minimum wage is clearly working in Vermont, and it’s time for Maine to give it a shot as well.


Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].