The Iowa legislature kicked off its 100-day session Monday. — photo by Katie Haugland
Iowa House Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that, if passed, would incrementally increase Iowa’s minimum wage over the next two years, culminating with a minimum hourly pay of $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2016.
The proposal mirrors ongoing efforts in Washington DC, as Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin seeks to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, indexed to inflation, by way of the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
The issue is a divisive one. Proponents claim that raising the minimum wage would have a stimulative effect on the economy while benefiting those still struggling to get by. Those opposed claim that raising the minimum wage would damage businesses — small businesses especially — many of which are already struggling.
On January 9, liberal activist group Progress Iowa released an independent poll that shows a majority of Iowans support raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10. According to the poll, paid for by Progress Iowa and conducted by Public Policy Polling, 53 percent of Iowans surveyed were in favor of the minimum wage hike while 36 percent were opposed.
Public Policy Polling surveyed 965 Iowa voters between January 3-5 to complete the poll with a 3.2 percent margin of error.
Reactions among area business owners have been less amenable, however, with some anticipating higher prices and staff cuts should the raise take effect.
Allen Zindrick, owner of Smuggler’s Wharf in Cedar Rapids’s Czech Village, told KCRG, “Things are tough in the restaurant business as it is right now, much less if we have to raise our minimum wage. You are going to have a dishwasher making $10.10 an hour, you are kind of looking and going ‘wow that’s crazy’.”
In a Des Moines Register report, restaurateur Scott Carlson says that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would lead to higher prices and force him to cut employees. Similarly, owners of Des Moines’ Tasty Tacos said a higher minimum wage could be especially difficult for small businesses amid looming health insurance mandates.
Iowa lawmakers last raised the state’s minimum wage in 2008, increasing the rate to $7.25 an hour — up from $6.25. The previous raise — a hike from $5.15 to $6.25 in 2007 — marked the first minimum wage increase the state had seen since 1997.