October 24, 2014

Push to raise Iowa’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour

Democrats in D.C. — like Senator Tom Harkin — are pressing to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and Democrats at the state level are championing the issue, too. Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, has already filed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“I just think it’s time for this bill. I think it’s got a shot,” Courtney says. “We’ll see what happens.”

The current Iowa minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, set above the national rate in 2007 by Democratic Governor Chet Culver and Democrats in the legislature, but now it’s identical to the national rate of $7.25. Jack Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines who’s a Democratic candidate for governor, supports raising the minimum wage above $10 an hour. Courtney says raising the minimum wage would benefit the local businesses who complain about the impact of higher wages.

“That money doesn’t get spent, you know, on vacation trips to Tahiti or something — or even new Cadillacs. That money gets spent locally,” Courtney says. “Those folks have a little more money, now all of a sudden they can take their families out for a meal once in a while, maybe go buy some clothes for their kids or something like that.”

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wage rates that are above the national rate of $7.25 an hour. Eleven states adjust their minimum wage annually, based on a cost of living formula. Courtney would like legislators to vote to make that kind of yearly adjustment to Iowa’s minimum wage, too.

“No one yet has shown me a nationwide statistic that raising the minimum wage actually hurts the economy. It always helps,” Courtney says, “and I believe it will help the people I represent.”

The minimum wage in Washington state is currently highest in the country, at $9.19 cents an hour and it is adjusted annually for inflation. Business groups say higher minimum wages lead to job losses, as businesses get squeezed by higher pay for entry-level workers as well as salary hikes because workers already on the job expect higher pay when they see new employees earning more.