Innkeepers, Restaurant Owners Oppose Minimum Wage Ballot Question Wording

Jun 16, 2016

Innkeepers and restaurant owners say Maine’s secretary of state missed the mark when he wrote up the language for a statewide ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage — and they want him to change it.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap earlier this week released the language for five citizen initiatives for voters to consider in November. That includes one asking voters whether the state’s minimum hourly wage should be raised in annual increments to $12 by 2024 for both workers who receive tips and those who don’t.

But according to Peter Gore of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the wording of the measure omits some important points about the intent of the petitions voters signed to get the issue on the ballot.

Those petitions also called for continued hikes in the minimum wage after 2024 to match inflation. And the petitions called for elimination of a tip credit employers can use when calculating the minimum wage they pay workers such as waiters.

“This is one of the downfalls of legislating through referendum. But it’s here and it’s now. To be fair, it needs to be a complete picture of what the question really is,” Gore says.

The chamber and allied restaurant owners — who oppose the minimum wage measure — are proposing a longer version of the ballot question that they say is more clear and spells out the true intent of the initiative.

The measure’s backers say the opponents aren’t trying to shed light on its intent. Instead, says Mike Tipping of Mainers for Fair Wages, they want to confuse voters and make a no vote more likely.

“The language they put forward is long, complex and byzantine,” he says. “What the statute says for the state of Maine is it has to be simple, concise clear and direct. And it’s a very simple policy, raising the minimum wage — most people understand that.”

Secretary of State Dunlap has a week to issue a final version of the ballot items.