AUGUSTA — The Democrat-led House of Representatives on Monday supported a bill to increase Maine’s minimum wage incrementally to $9.50 by 2018, but the measure’s passage is far from certain.

In a 81-66 vote, the House approved an amended version of L.D. 92, which would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8 by October 2015, and then by 50 cents each year, topping out at $9.50 by 2018.

“The need to raise the minimum wage is very real and could not be more evident,” said Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook, the bill’s lead sponsor, in his first floor speech as a lawmaker. “We must do something to help our workers, but we don’t want to shock the system. This has been a compromise from its inception.”

Increasing the minimum wage has been a priority for Democrats this legislative session, but this bill may not make it through the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. And even if it does pass the Senate, Gov. Paul LePage is almost certain to veto. He has consistently rejected calls to increase the minimum wage and, more recently, he has pledged to veto all bills sponsored by Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, called the minimum wage bill one of the most important pieces of legislation up for debate this session and said it must be defeated.

“This bill is a job killer for Maine and especially rural Maine,” he said on the House floor Monday. “We need to allow employers to set the wages that they can afford to continue to provide jobs.”


Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, called the bill “a feel good pat on the back for those who don’t understand good economics.”

Democrats countered that increasing the minimum wage incrementally is a small step toward fixing the growing inequity between the rich and the working class.

“No one working 40 hours a week should be living in poverty,” said Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast.

Maine has not increased its minimum wage in 10 years, but the cost of living has increased significantly in that same time, particularly in urban areas.

A handful of communities across Maine have initiated discussion about raising the minimum wage locally.

The City Council in Portland could vote as early as next week on a proposal to increase the minimum wage in the city to $8.75 per hour, down from the $9.50 that was originally proposed.


The city councils in South Portland, Augusta and Bangor also have discussed raising the minimum wage, but none have taken final votes.

Additionally, the progressive Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine AFL-CIO, a coalition of labor unions, have partnered on a citizens’ initiative to raise the minimum wage incrementally, topping out at $12 per hour by 2020.

The Maine business community is divided over the minimum wage. Some small-business owners have feared that they won’t be able to shoulder the increased costs. Others have said an increase is overdue.


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