Members of the legislature’s Committee on Labor and Housing held a public hearing Monday to discuss six proposed bills regarding minimum wage in the state.
The contents of some of the bills would curb or delay minimum wage increases, advocates for workers warned that the measures would hurt struggling people by cutting into needed pay raises. Instead, they argued the legislature should approve bills to increase wages, giving low-income Mainers additional support.
Two bills would prevent municipalities from changing their minimum wage. The bills, sponsored by Reps. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) and Dan Newman (R-Belgrade) come after Portland voters in November approved raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour with time-and-a-half hazard pay during emergencies.
The committee also heard testimony on a bill put forward by Rep. Dick Bradstreet (R-Vassalboro) that would delay cost of living increases to the minimum wage. In addition, Rep. Shelley Rudnicki (R-Fairfield) advocated for her bill to create a lower minimum wage of $9.75 an hour for those under 18 and for those under 20 who are students.
In contrast, Rep. Benjamin Collings (D-Portland) testified about two bills that would expand wages for workers. One bill would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $16 an hour by 2025 and then tie wage increases to the cost of living. The other measure would establish a minimum wage of $16 an hour for school support staff for academic years starting after June 30, 2022.
The Committee will discuss the future of these bills during future work sessions.