Talk, but little discussion among Iowa lawmakers about minimum wage increase

If passed, HF 2011 would raise wages to $10.10 by 2016

James Q. Lynch
Published: January 23 2014 | 2:45 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:34 am in

Iowa Democratic lawmakers calling for a minimum wage hike are inviting Republicans to join the debate, but so far it’s been more dueling monologues than discussion.

“I get up every few days and harp about the minimum wage because I don’t think people who make $14,000 a year are making enough to live on,” Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, told colleagues during a point of personal privilege Thursday morning.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, seemed to agree later in the day when responding to reporters’ questions about prospects for a bipartisan agreement to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.

“If you listen to low-income Iowans, they tell us their standard of living, their lifestyles have not improved,” Dix said.

However, he’s not endorsing Courtney’s yet-to-be introduced minimum wage bill.

“You know, one thing that I think is important that we need to bring to this debate is that the minimum wage has been around for decades, the government-mandated wage,” Dix said. “Let’s not make that the centerpiece of how we are going to improve the lives of Iowans.”

While he waits for Courtney’s legislation, which is based on Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill in the U.S. Senate, to be introduced, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, is inviting Republicans to join the discussion in an effort to build bipartisan support.

In the House, Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he’s “waiting to see the conversation in the Senate.”

Rep. Pay Murphy, D-Dubuque, and 20 other Democrats have introduced HF 2011 to raise the state minimum wage to $7.75 July 30, $8.25 Jan. 1, 2015, $9 s of July 31, 2015, and $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2016.

Murphy and Republican Rep. Greg Forristall of Macedonia and Ralph Watts of Adel have been named to a subcommittee to discuss the bill. It has not met, but Watts expects it will.

Courtney expects his bill will win approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Iowa last raised the minimum wage in 2007.

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