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Wage Bills Opposed By Retail, Hotel Industries

AUGUSTA, Maine_ Maine's minimum wage is back on the table in Augusta. On Monday, law makers will hear public testimony on a packet of bills which seek to hike the state's lowest wage. One bill would increase the minimum by 50 cents to $8 per hour, while another would hike the wage up to $12 per hour.
Several figures in between are also being proposed.

"Most,  if not all the bills have the indexing provision in there," says Curtis Picard of the Retail Association of Maine. Automatic  increases for cost of living or inflation don't work for business owners who are at the mercy of an uncertain economy, says Picard.  "The wage hasn't been raised in a long time. Those discussions can- and should- happen from time to time," he says. "I'm happy to have that debate now, but to have something put on like an automatic pilot after that, we think is not appropriate."

The Maine Innkeepers Association plans to oppose all of the bills. 

"There are seven bills that do a variety of things," says Gregory Dugal, who heads both the Maine Inkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association.  "What they'll be asking us to do is to combine all those bills and make comment on seven different things that all do something slightly different. We are going to oppose them all- primarily because it's just a bunch of confusing items."

But worker advocates say while they don't find the bills to be perfect either, it's high time the wage went up.

"The living wage for a single adult in Maine is $15.86," says Mike Tipping of the Maine People's Alliance. "That's what it costs to work, to get to your job, to pay for housing, to pay for health care, for food, for things like that. None of the minimum wage proposals quite get there, but any increase in the minimum wage will be a step in the right direction."

An eighth bill seeks to form a working group to first study the impacts of raising Maine's minimum wage.

Public testimony will be taken by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee at 9:30 Monday.