Readers Respond

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Letters to the Pilot

Why no minimum

wage increase in Iowa?

To the Editor:

Some have suggested that Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for the failure to raise the Iowa's minimum wage. Those who suggest that are mistaken. Opposition from Republican senators and representatives is the reason, and the only reason, that the Iowa Legislature has failed to raise minimum wage the last two years.

A statehouse reporter recently wrote that "eight years of a Democratic governor and two years of shared state Senate control yielded zero progress."

It is clear why the first half of that statement is wrong: the governor can't sign a bill if the Legislature won't first pass it. The Republicans, who have had near total control of the Legislature for a decade, have consistently refused to pass a minimum wage increase.

In the last two years, the Iowa Senate has been split 25-25 between the parties. The rules of split control say that both parties must agree before a bill can be brought up for debate. For two years, Senate Republicans have simply refused to allow us to bring up a minimum wage bill.

We Democrats did our best to convince them. My colleagues and I rose virtually every day to call for a minimum wage increase. We pointed out that minimum wage workers haven't had a raise in almost nine years. We argued that a single mother with two kids could work full time at the current minimum and still be 33 percent below the poverty level. We pointed to struggling students working minimum wage jobs and still having to borrow an average of $29,000 to finish at ISU. The $1.60 per hour minimum wage I earned on my first job in 1968, if adjusted for inflation, would be almost $9 per hour in today's dollars, but the actual minimum is stuck at only $5.15.

Nothing we said could get the Republicans to budge. Helping working people provide for their families by making work pay should not be a partisan issue...

Iowans have a great work ethic. It's time we paid minimum wage workers more than lip service. It's time they got a raise.

- Sen. Herman C. Quirmbach, Ames