Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has signed off on the popular name and ballot title for a proposed initiated act to raise the state minimum wage.
The ad hoc group, Give Arkansas a Raise Now, includes labor, church and other groups. It would raise the existing state minimum (which is lower than the federal minimum and applies to workers not covered by the federal law) from $6.25 to $7.50 Jan. 1, 2015, $8 the following year and $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2017.
Backers will need to gather 62,506 signatures to qualify the measure for the 2014 ballot. McDaniel’s opinion noted new state law — currently under challenge in court — that stiffens requirements on petition canvassing.
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce has already expressed coolness to the measure because it expects a push from President Obama to raise the current federal minimum from $7.25. Big business argues that an increase is bad for business. A variety of economists have tackled the issue over the years and many have concluded that a higher minimum wage is NOT harmful to business, while obviously helpful to working poor. It enables businesses to hire and keep better employees.
Randy Zook, executive director of the Chamber, commented that the state minimum applies only to a small number of people. Which, to may way of thinking, argues FOR an increase to the very poorest of workers, not against it. The wage was last raised in 2006. Arkansas is one of only four states will a minimum BELOW the federal minimum.
Polls here and nationally show broad voter support for an increase in the minimum wage, including among Republican voters. Arkansas Republican candidates haven’t demonstrated similar support yet this year.