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story.lead_photo.caption From left, U.S. Reps. French Hill, Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman are shown in file photos.

U.S. Reps. French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Rick Crawford oppose a measure on November's ballot that would gradually raise the state's minimum wage, while Arkansas' other U.S. representative and two senators haven't taken a public position on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Democrats challenging the four Republican U.S. House incumbents universally support Issue 5, the proposed initiated act that would raise the state's minimum wage by $2.50 an hour to $11 an hour by 2021.

Hill, of Little Rock, plans to vote "no" on Issue 5 on Nov. 6 because, he said, it would make it harder for some people to start working.

"As I have said in the past, I do not support raising the minimum wage," Hill said in a statement. "Raising the minimum wage costs jobs and opportunities to start a career, particularly for those entering the workforce or trying to get their first job. I have dedicated my time in Congress to advocating for skilled workforce development to prepare Arkansans for good-paying jobs in long-term careers that pay well above the minimum wage."

Ryan Saylor, a Westerman spokesman, said Friday that Westerman planned to vote against the minimum-wage increase. Westerman is from Hot Springs.

Through a spokesman, Crawford said that while he opposes the proposal, he also believes the issue is best determined by ballot initiative so everyone has the ability to support or oppose it.

"If the proponents of this issue would tell voters across Arkansas that it could very likely end up costing jobs and lost wages if increased, we could have a real and meaningful discussion about economic security," Crawford, of Jonesboro, said in a statement. "We have to talk more about achieving that goal through workforce development and updated skills training to meet the demands of today's economy, not about minimum wages and fewer opportunities."

Alexia Sikora, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers, didn't say how Womack planned to vote on the issue.

"It's a state issue that will be decided by the voters, and the Congressman will be joining others in casting his ballot on the topic in November," Sikora said in an email.

Arkansas has a higher minimum wage than any of its surrounding states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Arkansas' minimum wage was last raised to $8.50 an hour in 2014, also through a ballot initiative. The state Legislature hasn't voted to raise the minimum wage in more than a decade.

The highest minimum wages are in California, Washington state, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. The District of Columbia's minimum wage is $13.25 per hour; Washington state's wage is $11.50; and the wages in Massachusetts and California are $11 per hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, who is challenging Hill for the 2nd Congressional District seat, plans to vote for the initiated act. Tucker has previously voiced support for Issue 5.

"Hard-working Arkansas families are long overdue for a raise," Tucker said in a Friday statement. "Many are working multiple jobs and still unable to afford life's basic needs. We need life's basic needs, like health care, child care, and prescription drugs, to cost less, but we also need more higher-paying jobs. We have a lot of work ahead of us to address all of these important issues, but this specific proposal certainly improves the ability of hard-working Arkansans to earn their way through this world, and that is why I support it."

Hayden Shamel of Hot Springs, a Democrat who is challenging Westerman for the 4th Congressional District seat, said she supports Issue 5, and she attacked Westerman for protecting "corporations and special interest groups that are funding his campaign."

"As an educator who has taught in high schools and community colleges throughout south and central Arkansas, I know that 1 out of every 4 of our children and elderly are living in poverty," Shamel said in a statement. "We deserve a representative who knows that our people shouldn't have to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet to provide for their kids and that there shouldn't even be a category called 'working' poor."

Chintan Desai of Helena-West Helena, the Democrat challenging Crawford for Arkansas' 1st Congressional District seat, said he supports Issue 5, and he'd like to see the federal minimum wage raised even further to $15 an hour. Desai cited a National Low Income Housing Coalition report that concluded an average Arkansan must earn $13.84 an hour to be able to afford a two-bedroom home.

"They'll need more than that if they're going to pay for job training, health care, etc.," Desai said. "[Issue 5] is the right move and taking us in the right direction."

Democrat Josh Mahony of Fayetteville, who is challenging Womack for Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District seat, said he "wholeheartedly" supports raising the minimum wage.

"It's time that Arkansans' wages caught up with their hard work," he said.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., doesn't have a position on Issue 5, but he "looks forward to learning about it before he joins Arkansans at his voting precinct to cast his vote," spokesman Patrick Creamer said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is "still looking into the initiative," spokesman James Arnold said. Neither senator is up for re-election this year.

When asked last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin -- both Republicans -- publicly opposed Issue 5, saying the proposal would kill jobs. Hutchinson said he supports raising the minimum wage, but that it should be done through legislative action when the "economic outlook" supports it.

Issue 5 proponents argue that it would put about $455 million in the pockets of more than 300,000 Arkansans once it's fully implemented. Issue 5 has been challenged in court. A special master ruled last week that Issue 5 had sufficient signatures to remain on the ballot. His recommendations will now be considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Metro on 10/02/2018

Print Headline: 3 congressmen oppose measure to boost state's minimum wage

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  • RBear
    October 2, 2018 at 6:02 a.m.

    To see these congressmen come out against this measure without providing any factual proof is a disservice to the Arkansans they serve. Their positions are the canned rhetorical lines from right wingers that have been disproven many times over. In regions where the minimum wage was raised, jobs were not lost and economic activity actually increased. In a recent study by UC-Berkeley, the impact of raising the minimum wage did not disrupt the labor market, but actually improved the economic conditions of the area.
    ...
    If you think through the reasons, it's evident of what increasing the minimum wage can do for a region. For starters, it helps move individuals off poverty programs and into self-sufficiency, reducing the impact on state and federal budgets. It also increases tax revenues at all levels, from the increase in purchasing to new taxes gained from the increase in income. It also helps move people into the job force and increases the quality of work.
    ...
    But even more importantly, it generates additional economic activity at the foundational level that has greater impact due to the multiplier effect. Anyone who understands fundamental economics knows that the economic impact of consumer purchasing has a much greater impact due to the ripple of economic activity.
    ...
    So, why do these congressmen oppose the ballot initiative? Because their special interest bosses told them to oppose it. Their motives are not for the average Arkansan. It's for wealthy special interest, especially French Hill who's statement was one of the worst in terms of lacking in fact. But a few did get one thing right. The voters of Arkansas should decide this since the Republican led legislature has dragged its feet on the matter.

  • LRCrookAttorney
    October 2, 2018 at 7:55 a.m.

    Rbear..."...it helps move individuals off poverty programs and into self-sufficiency, reducing the impact on state and federal budgets."
    *
    I don't agree with this. There are many studies and depending on the source of the study the different results you get. The truth is that inflation will keep up with any increase in minimum wage. In the short term, people will have more money. However, everything will increase in cost to offset the new income. The businesses having to pay the additional salary will have to make that money up in some manner. The easiest way is to increase the cost of their products. This hurts the minimum wage worker, because they are the ones buying the products.

    In the early 90s, you could buy a nice home for mid $40k. By the end of the 90s home prices had almost doubled. There have been many studies to determine why this happened. The one that I am partial to is that the majority of households became two income households by the end of the 80s. To offset the increase in household income and to basically not allow middle class to move into high class neighborhoods (or it may be just because households could now afford more), house prices began to sky rocket.

  • Ragmop
    October 2, 2018 at 7:56 a.m.

    People who work the hardest are often paid the least. It would be hard for me to oppose the proposed minimum wage increase. Provisions for people just entering the workforce may need to be considered, however.

  • RBear
    October 2, 2018 at 8:10 a.m.

    LRCrook a counter to your inflation point. Right now, we're experiencing a rate of inflation at about 2% but the minimum wage is not increasing. So, inflation will happen but those impacted by the wage will not receive any benefit from inflationary pressure.
    ...
    Continuing that point, the rise of prices has not been seen in those areas where the minimum wage was raised. There are FAR too many other factors that a rise in minimum wages will cause that much of a dent. Neat premise, but there is no data to back it AND the actual economic impact is NOT enough to create inflationary pressure. Now, labor shortages or the like are more likely to create pressures to create inflation and that is happening.

  • hah406
    October 2, 2018 at 8:29 a.m.

    Most importantly, thank God the congressmen don't get to decide. Regnat populous. Let the people rule. LRCrook, prices rise regardless of wages. The actual purchasing power of a dollar hasn't risen in about 40 years. Wages have not kept up with inflation or with corporate profits. Again, most importantly, if the people decide that the minimum wage should be a certain amount, let them do so, and accept either the consequences or the rewards of doing so.

  • Delta123
    October 2, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

    Typically compensation is the largest expense item for business. $8.50 to $11.00 per hour equates to a 30% increase. Not sure there are many businesses that can absorb that level of increase without either raising prices, laying off employees or even going out of business.

  • Popsmith
    October 2, 2018 at 8:55 a.m.

    Higher wages equal more tax money.
    Higher wages moves the level of poverty up so that we will have richer poor people.
    Higher wages make low income jobs more attractive.
    Higher wages push all wages up. More money = more taxes.
    Higher wages increases inflation.
    Lots of pros and cons.
    Big on cons.

  • JakeTidmore
    October 2, 2018 at 8:59 a.m.

    Economic Policy Institute gives several sound, research-backed reasons why minimum wage increase is a positive for both workers and for society:
    htt ps://ww w.epi.o rg/publication/the-impact-of-raising-the-federal-minimum-wage-to-12-by-2020-on-workers-businesses-and-the-economy-testimony-before-the-u-s-house-committee-on-education-and-the-workforce-member-forum/
    **
    A good overview which also provides many links (the one linking you to left & right viewpoints is interesting, indeed):
    htt ps://journalistsresource.or g/studies/economics/inequality/the-effects-of-raising-the-minimum-wage

    -
    EXCERPT:
    There is a huge research literature associated with this issue, as detailed below. Among the extended primers worth considering is the 2014 book “What Does the Minimum Wage Do?” by Dale Belman of Michigan State University and Paul Wolfson of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. That work synthesizes some 200 papers. In their conclusion, they write:
    Evidence leads us to conclude that moderate increases in the minimum wage are a useful means of raising wages in the lower part of the wage distribution that has little or no effect on employment and hours. This is what one seeks in a policy tool, solid benefits with small costs. That said, current research does not speak to whether the same results would hold for large increases in the minimum wage.

  • RBear
    October 2, 2018 at 9:04 a.m.

    A couple of points to consider.
    ...
    Delta if the entirety of the payroll was minimum wage, then your premise might hold true. However, the majority of payrolls is NOT minimum wage so the percent increase is not what you state. In fact, it's probably significantly less.
    ...
    Popsmith when you say more taxes you do realize that is a result of increasing the wages, not an additional tax because of the minimum wages. I don't see how that is a con. Are you saying people should not get the higher wage because they would pay taxes on the wage increase? That doesn't make sense. I'm still seeing more pros than cons.

  • LRCrookAttorney
    October 2, 2018 at 9:22 a.m.

    Well, hell if the list that PM postulates is in fact a true statement, then let's just raise minimum wage to $50/hour. Then there will be more money more money more money. Why stop at $11? I don't get it. Let's just make it $100/hour. This is insane. You argue that it is good for the economy to raise minimum wage, but at the same time you want to put a limit on that raise.

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