A study commission in Linn County is recommending county officials vote to set a county-wide minimum wage that’s a dollar-an-hour higher than the state and national rate. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett backs that local boost, but suggests a statewide increase would be preferable.
“I don’t think it’s really good for our state to have a hodgepodge of minimum wages at different city levels and different counties throughout the state,” Corbett says, “so it’s really something that the legislature and the governor need to address.”
Corbett, a former legislator who served as speaker of the Iowa House, is considered a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2018.
Polk County officials are debating whether to set a county wage rate that’s higher than the state and national minimum wage. Robert Brownell, a member of the Polk County Board of Supervisors, says these moves put pressure on state policymakers.
“I think when you have a third of the population of the state, which is really Johnson, Polk and Linn (Counties), with three different minimum wages, if I’m a legislator, that’s something I want to deal with,” Brownell says.
Brownell, a Republican, is chairman of the Polk County Board of Supervisors.
Johnson County officials were the first in Iowa to pass a local ordinance establishing a county-wide wage floor that’s higher than the state’s minimum wage. Johnson County’s minimum wage has been going up incrementally and will reach $10.10 an hour on January 1. Four smaller communities in Johnson County have chosen to opt out and retain the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Critics say a higher minimum wage hurts small businesses with narrow profit margins and makes it harder for teenagers to get jobs.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Dean Borg; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)