Local minimum wage increases to $10/hr

January 1, 2018

Most Maine workers already earn more than minimum wage, but there are still jobs in retail, fast food and convenience stores that are at near that level. The Maine Center for Economic Policy, which was one of the supporters of the 2016 wage referendum, says 59,000 people will be getting higher pay as a result.

By Don Carrigan , WCSH

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — For thousands of Maine workers, 2018 means another pay raise.  As of today, the minimum wage increases to ten dollars per hour.  

That’s the result of the referendum vote that passed in 2016. This is the second year of a four year increase in Maine’s  minimum wage. It will jump to $11 in 2019 and then to $12 per hour in 2020.

Most Maine workers already earn more than minimum wage, but there are still jobs in retail, fast food and convenience stores that are at near that level. The Maine Center for Economic Policy, which was one of the supporters of the 2016 wage referendum, says 59,000 people will be getting higher pay as a result.

“One thing we know,” said Mario Moreno of the MCEP, “when we increase wages for people at the lower end of the spectrum they actually spend that money in the economy. They don’t invest it or squirrel it away like wealthier people do. So we think this will be good not only for families that make minimum wage but for local businesses.”

He estimated the higher wage will account for nearly $80 million in added wages going into the economy.

However, that money comes from Maine businesses, and business advocates say it likely means reduced profits for businesses or higher prices for consumers. Curtis Picard of the Retail Association of Maine told NEWS CENTER  the current low unemployment rate and a shortage of workers have meant many businesses already pay more than minimum, but he said employers may face more problems as the wage climbs to $12.

“We’re hearing most often from folks who hire high schoolers, giving people those first jobs,” said Picard. “Those are the ones who typically pay minimum wage, whether it’s an ice cream shop or a restaurant, whoever gives kids those first jobs will be most impacted.”

There was talk in Augusta last year of creating a so-called “training wage”, a lower minimum for teenagers just starting out in the workforce. It did not pass the Legislature but is scheduled to be brought up again this winter.

Even with the increase, Maine’s minimum wage is still the second-lowest in New England.  Massachusetts is highest at $11 per hour, followed by Vermont at $10.50, then Rhode Island and Connecticut, which are both at $10.10.  Maine is next at the new $10 level, and New Hampshire remains at the bottom, with the same $7.25 minimum wage as the federal government.

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