The present political and special interest-group wrangling over not whether, but how much, to raise the minimum wage in Portland focuses attention on yet another unwarranted attempt by government to impose arbitrary, burdensome costs on private-sector businesses.

It is interesting to read the attempted justification for the actual monetary rate proposed to be added to employer labor costs. It appears that this trumped-up rationale is presented with little to no concern for the financial and customer impact on the private business sector.

Several issues come to mind:

Because about 90 percent of private-sector businesses in Maine employ fewer than 20 employees, any such politically mandated (rather than responding to free-market conditions) wage increases would have a wide-ranging and serious impact on their overall wage structures and profit-and-loss statements. One political “solution” fits all?

So what should be the new minimum-wage amount? $10 an hour? $15? But if the wage-setting decision is not determined by individual business owners, based on free-market considerations, but rather by arbitrary political whim, then business tax relief seems totally justified.

So pick a new higher minimum wage number. Any number.

Such an increase must be conditioned on permitting affected business owners to deduct this total increased labor cost, including all payroll taxes, from the tax bill of the government imposing such higher minimum wage. Why shouldn’t this increased social-driven business cost be equally offset by a reduced business tax burden?

Bill Underwood