The secretary of state’s office says it hopes to complete by today or tomorrow the certification of signatures on the referendum to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017.
Democrats uniformly have expressed support for the initiative, which is in step with overwhelming public opinion polling. It’s a good campaign issue, if not necessarily a voter turnout issue.
If there’s a Republican candidate for office who definitively supports the ballot initiative, I’ve yet to see one. But they have developed a finesse as embodied by a statement by Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson:
… I wanted to take a moment to reiterate my consistent support for increasing our state’s minimum wage. The ballot initiative, if confirmed on the ballot and passed, may accomplish this, but if it fails to pass, I pledge to work with the legislature to raise the minimum wage to at least match the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Our overall goal as a state should be to not just increase the minimum wage but to increase the living wage for an Arkansas family to make this state the best place to work, live and raise a family.
This statement falls short of an endorsement of the ballot initiative. Hutchinson has previously said he preferred a legislative solution and has gone no farther than matching the existing federal wage, which guarantees Arkansas would soon be far behind again.
Democrats say it’s simple. Regnat Populus. If you don’t endorse the measure, you oppose it.
There’s something a bit dishonest in Hutchinson’s compassion for minimum wage earners in a release headlined misleading “Hutchinson reaffirms support for minimum wage increase.” Reaffirms what? This is his expressed opinion on the measure, dating back to last year:
.I do not support an increase in the amounts set in the ballot initiative. I do not support an increase in the amounts set in the ballot initiative. I do believe the minimum wage needs to be increased and it should be considered when the General Assembly meets again. The amount of any increase should be based upon economic factors at that time,
You don’t need to read carefully to see that he’s even built in some wiggle room on a legislative increase to $7.25, depending on “economic factors.” Mike Ross, the Democratic candidate, has repeatedly expressed support for the ballot measure. Clear choice on this issue.