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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
10:32 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Politics dominate minimum-wage debate

Increasing the minimum wage is not without politics.

The heated arguments this past week in Congress over whether to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour divided politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats ­ who saw their proposal to boost the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour by January 2009 go down in defeat ­ say such a pay increase would have given 6.5 million Americans $4,400 more to spend each year.

Economists and Republicans argue that forcing employers to increase the amount they pay entry-level workers may constrain hiring; more money going out, fewer jobs on the horizon. Critics also say the minimum wage is supposed to be for entry-level workers. They also contend that most of the minimum-wage earners are teenagers or retirees.

The liberal argument is that we have minimum-wage earners not making enough money. The idea is that for a family of four to make it in today's economy, they deserve a minimum wage.

The way I see it is, sure, maybe a lot of the people making the minimum wage are teens or elderly. At the same time, I also know of middle-aged men and women who work those same jobs.

How do they make it in today's economy Š Prescott's economy where, for example, home prices are escalating? They work several ­ two or more ­ minimum-wage jobs.

They're making it ­ barely, and they're not buying homes. All of the above need more money.

On the other hand, the amount that businesses would have to raise the going rate so that same family of four could bank enough cash, let's say, to be able to stop working so many jobs, truly could harm the economy.

However, that would be increasing the minimum from $5.15 to about $12 per hour. That's what it would take.

Enter the ballot measure voters are likely to see this fall: The Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition has collected and filed more than 200,000 petition signatures so that voters will be able to increase the minimum wage for working Arizonans.

The measure would increase the minimum wage in Arizona to $6.75 per hour and then make adjustments for inflation one time each year.

That, folks, we could afford.

We should not put politics or profits above quality of life.

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PARTING SHOT ­ The minimum wage has not increased since September 1997, and the periods of inaction are (and were) during Republican presidencies. No wonder Democrats like the issue.

Contact the columnist at twieds@prescottaz.com