Where is the discussion in Augusta about the progressive minimum-wage structure that we are now facing?

I am an employer in Biddeford and start people at 40 to 45 percent above minimum with flexible hours. In this town, that’s in high demand. It’s simple assembly for which I compete nationally and internationally.

I have been considering expansion and adding more jobs, but at $12 and up as a starting point, I am either out of business or moving to New Hampshire. I compete against Chinese low-cost alternatives, not against the guy across the street, who is bound by the same laws. All the social outreach pushing the referendum did not consider competing out of state or country.

Likewise, I’ve spoken with groups that place disabled folks back in the workforce. They have already seen hours being cut for their existing clients and are struggling to place new ones. And that’s at the $9 rate, not $12.

Let’s not forget our biggest industry: tourism. How are they going to respond to paying teenagers $12 to pour a slushie or take out the trash?

I agree with an increase, but this referendum, as written, was not a mandate and not only causes the damage already mentioned, but also creates wage compression. If you pay $12 now, you have to pay $16 or more in two years to attract people with basic job skills. The $12 wage will put us higher than California, New York, Connecticut and many other states that have robust economies and don’t face the age demographic or geographic issues we do.

A $10 cap with a lower rate structure for youth workers is not only fair, but also manageable by a much larger group of employers. Our leaders in Augusta need to actually lead on this issue and not fold to partisan agendas.

Mike Lee