Advocates for a Higher Minimum Wage Dominate Statehouse Hearing

Mar 6, 2017

Opponents of a bill banning a higher minimum wage which is working its way through the Iowa House far outnumbered supporters at a public hearing at the statehouse last night.    

The bill would rescind minimum wages approved in Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Wapello Counties that are higher than the statewide wage of $7.25 an hour. 

Low-income Iowans and their advocates, religious groups, child advocacy groups, and students all spoke out against the bill and in favor of a higher minimum wage.

Iowa City activist Pat Bowen
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

Pat Bowen is an activist in Johnson County where the minimum wage is now $10.10 an hour.

“And thus far I know of no businesses that have gone out of business because of it,” Bowen said to members of the House Local Government Committee in a packed committee room.  “If businesses would pay a living wage we taxpayers who you represent would not have to subsidize people using food stamps and other government assistance.”

But business groups argued against what they call the uneven landscape of varying wage laws.

“We want to have a statewide universal policy that is predictable that we can market, to say this is what the wage is for the state of Iowa,” said John Stineman, Executive Director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance.

State trooper securing committee room for statehouse hearing
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

“Our industry feels the pain more than many when wages are recklessly raised,” said John Maines, Legal Affairs Specialist with the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa.

In addition to the four counties that have already raised the minimum wage, higher wages are under consideration in Lee and Blackhawk Counties.

“The local supervisors in these counties identified a local issue they felt needed to be addressed, they realized  the state was  not taking action  on  a statewide basis, and they started to act in order to find a solution to this problem,” said Lucas Beenken, public policy specialist with the Iowa State Association of Counties.  “This is the role and responsibility of local elected officials when they identify a need within their jurisdiction.”    

HF 295 is available for debate by the full House of Representatives as early as Tuesday.