Monday, November 18, 2013

Senate Republicans Seek Fair Wages, Economic Competitiveness

Today I distributed the following press release regarding tomorrow’s Senate debate on the minimum wage bill:

Boston- In the midst of an unexpected and rushed attempt to put Massachusetts on a path to having a highest-in-the-nation $11 minimum wage, Senate Republicans are working to achieve a more balanced approach with a fair minimum wage and economic competitiveness to create jobs and growth in the face of an uncertain recovery.

Senate Bill 1925, “An Act to Restore the Minimum Wage”, was reported out favorably from the Senate Committee on Ways and Means last Thursday, largely bypassing the committee process since several minimum wage bills are awaiting action by the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.  In response to a very limiting deadline for amendments to the bill, the Senate GOP Caucus today offered several amendments, all of which seek to provide fair wages and a better employment climate so that more people will have a job to earn those wages and more.

“If the goal is to make Massachusetts one of the most expensive states in the country in which to try to start or grow a business, then the language of the current Senate bill is appropriate,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).  “But if we are seeking to boost income for low wage earners and foster job growth, retention and competitiveness, then there is a better and more reasonable approach.”

Avoiding the shortsightedness of the bill, the caucus filed amendments that would encourage job growth, increase the minimum wage to livable levels, and target unemployment by addressing the multifaceted issue from several different angles.  Those amendments include:

  • Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by April 2016, and basing future raises on several critical factors, such as unemployment rates, rates of neighboring states, and economic competitiveness;
  • Alternatively providing a onetime increase to $9.00 and leaving future increase to legislative action;
  • Helping minimum wage earners with children by expanding resources through the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • Reforming the unemployment insurance system;
  • Reducing the minimum wage for teens under the age of 18 by no more than 20% of the current rate to increase employment opportunities;
  • Studying the effectiveness of regional minimum wage rates rather than a one-size-fits-all statewide rate;
  • Combating high energy costs; and
  • Assisting employers who offer health care coverage to minimum wage earners.
“Senate Republicans have offered an alternative measure that takes a more balanced approach in moving Massachusetts’ minimum wage amongst the highest in the nation, but yet still allows the Commonwealth’s business sector to remain competitive, while not further burdening small businesses,” said Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth).

“When addressing an issue that will have such substantial impacts on the Commonwealth, it is imperative that we take a thoughtful approach and carefully consider all perspectives and proposals,” said Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham). “At this time the Senate needs to act responsibly, not haphazardly to effectively improve the quality of life for all of the Commonwealth’s citizens”

“Something as complex as raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour over the course of three years can have several long-lasting, unexpected consequences that could really hamper our economic recovery, particularly small businesses,” said Senator Tarr.  “The legislature should have a conversation to achieve two goals; 1) providing livable wages, and 2) ways to reduce the cost of doing business in Massachusetts.  The Senate Republican Caucus believes we can have that conversation and achieve those goals through the amendments that were filed today.”