Governor Terry Branstad today said he doesn’t like the “hodgepodge” of city and county minimum wage hikes that are going into effect in Iowa. After the election’s over, he plans to talk with legislators about the issue.
“I think it would be wise for us to carefully review the workforce and what the needs are out there and look at what neighboring states have done and what is competitive,” Branstad said during his weekly news conference. “I would prefer that we have a uniform, statewide minimum wage rather than a hodgepodge of county-by-county, city-by-city minimum wages that could be, I think, very confusing for people.”
The state’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, identical to the federal minimum wage. Every state that borders Iowa has raised its minimum wage higher than that.
“Now we’re seeing this activity in several counties and I think it becomes a challenge and difficult for many businesses and many people,” Branstad said. “It would be better if we had a uniform, statewide minimum wage.”
AUDIO of governor’s weekly news conference (there was a sound system battery failure at 16 minute mark, then Branstad repeated his comments about minimum wage made during the lapse)
“I’m going to work with the legislature, once the legislative elections are completed, to see if there is bipartisan support to address this difficult issue,” Branstad said. “…It’s not easy.”
County boards of supervisors in Johnson, Linn, Wapello and Polk Counties have voted to raise the minimum wage locally. Many of those county officials have expressed the hope their aciton would pressure state officials to act.
“I know this is a challenging and controversial issue and there are those that would like to demand $15,” Branstad said. “And honestly, I think most people, including the supervisors here in Polk County, determined that wasn’t realistic, so we have to look at what’s fair, but also what’s realistic and what will help people and not hurt small business.”
During today’s 9 a.m. news conference, a television reporter asked Branstad why he thought “it was time to push a higher minimum wage.” Around noon, Branstad’s staff issued a “clarification,” saying Branstad was just suggesting a review, not calling for an increase in the minimum wage. However, a radio reporter had asked Branstad this morning if he had ruled out signing a minimum wage increase.
“I have never ruled that out and I’ve said that for the last several years,” Branstad replied during his weekly news conference. “The question is can we achieve a bipartisan consensus on what would be a reasonable and fair level.”
In 1990, Republicans in the legislature voted against a bill Democrats passed that called for raising the state’s minimum wage above the federal rate. Branstad surprised his fellow Republicans by signing it into law. Now, Branstad’s giving advanced warning that he’s open to taking similar action in 2017.
“After they have stonewalled on this important issue for Iowa families for a decade, why would any Iowa worker believe Governor Branstad and legislative Republicans are sincere today?” Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire said. “…The only way the minimum wage will be increased for Iowa workers is if there are Democratic majorities in the Iowa House and Senate.”
Here are the minimum wage rates in surrounding states: $8.25 in Illinois; $7.56 in Missouri and it will go up to $7.80 next year; $9.00 in Nebraska; $8.50 in South Dakota; $9.50 in Minnesota.
(This story was updated at 1 p.m. after tweets labeled “CLARIFICATION” were posted on the governor’s official twitter account.)