Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Family Economic Security > Maybe we should revisit the minimum wage

Maybe we should revisit the minimum wage

Income inequality is a serious problem in Vermont that needs to be addressed on several fronts, and paying people more for their labor, especially those at the bottom, should be part of the strategy.

Now political leaders and workers’ advocates who support a higher minimum wage may find they have some unexpected allies. The Washington Post reported this week on a leaked survey of business leaders throughout the country. It found that 80 percent were in favor of increasing the minimum wage. They also expressed strong support for maternity and paternity leave, paid sick time, and paid family leave.

The survey was done on behalf of the Council of State Chambers of Commerce. It’s not clear how many Vermont businesses leaders took part, but Vermont was included in the East division of states. The PowerPoint prepared by the pollster, Frank Luntz, can be seen here, and the survey questionnaire is also online here.

According to the Chamber of Commerce survey, income inequality was not a pressing issue for many of the business leaders who were polled. And they said keeping taxes affordable was a higher priority than raising the minimum wage. But the business leaders apparently did agree that it was unfair for people to work long hours and still be unable to lift their families out of poverty. Between 25 and 30 percent of business leaders thought it wasn’t right that Wal-Mart workers still needed food stamps in order to feed their children.

Two years ago, the Vermont Legislature voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour by 2018. This year the minimum is $9.60 and next year it goes to $10. The District of Columbia is already at $10.50 an hour, currently the highest in the country. Three states are also higher than Vermont: California and Massachusetts, both at $10 an hour, and Alaska, $9.75.

This week, California and New York became the first states to move to a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Both states will phase in the wage hike over several years. California’s plan is to reach $15 by 2022.

There’s no reason Vermont has to stop at $10.50.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on April 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Comments are closed.