Mike Ross came out in support yesterday of a potential ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas from $6.25 to $8.50. The hike, which would be phased in over three years, has also been endorsed by Sen. Mark Pryor. The grassroots group Give Arkansas a Raise Now is gathering signatures to put the proposal on the ballot in November.
No surprise here. As we discussed on the podcast, this is an issue that Democrats believe is a major winner for them. Increasing the minimum wage is broadly popular with the public, and it also is an issue well suited to energize the Democratic base. Democrats have struggled in recent years to get their core constituents to the polls in non-presidential election cycles (turnout in off years has traditionally been lower for young voters, minorities, and single women). The minimum wage is an issue that Democratic voters can rally around.
Though it’s ultimately irrelevant in a campaign for governor, I’d be curious to know Ross’s position on the minimum wage bill in the Senate, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. I’d bet ten dollars and ten cents that if forced to weigh in, Ross would offer the same straddle-the-fence line as Pryor: for the wage hike in Arkansas, against the wage hike from D.C. (because, Obama).
What about Asa Hutchinson? He has the same mealy-mouthed procedural hedging on this issue that he had on the private option. He’s for an increase to the state minimum wage, he claims, but wants it to happen in the legislature rather than via a ballot initiative, for reasons that remain a mystery. Given that such an effort died in committee last year, this might sound suspiciously like opposing a minimum wage hike in practice (if so, he is playing to his base). But, because of the popularity of the minimum wage increase, he’d rather not say so. As with the private option, Ross will hammer him for this incoherent posturing.
(He won’t say this out loud, but one reason for Hutchinson to oppose the ballot initiative — as we note above, this is an issue that will fire up some folks that Hutchinson would rather stay at home come November.)