CONTINUING COVERAGE: FLOODS OF 2016

Polk County Minimum Wage Discussion Continues Monday

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Polk County Supervisors and the Minimum Wage Task Force will hold an open meeting Monday afternoon to weigh the pros and cons of a minimum wage increase. County officials formed the task force in April.

”You know, I don’t recall since I’ve been in office there being so much passion around a specific issue than this. The crazy part is you got people on both ends of the spectrum,” said Tom Hockensmith, Polk Co. Supervisor.

In the previous meetings, both proponents and opponents have been vocal in what they think is best for the county.

”Folks over here want a high of minimum wages as they can get. And you got folks on this side that think the government shouldn’t be involved in setting minimum wage. They think the market should drive it,” said Hockensmith.

Hockensmith insisted the board wants to do what’s best for the county but did say the minimum wage is far behind. Across the country, 29 states have a higher minimum wage than of $7.25 per hour, which is the federal minimum. Five of the six states surrounding Iowa have a higher minimum wage, only Wisconsin has a lower one.

In the last meeting, 3 of the 5 county supervisor said they would not approve a $15 per hour hike and recommended that they look at an increase in the $10-$12 range.

Proponents of the increase like, Mark Cooper with Iowa Federation of Labor suggest that anything under $15 an hour will cost low-income workers. He points to a study called “The Cliff Effect.”

The argument is centered around when it doesn’t pay to get a raise. In Polk Co., to qualify for most assistant programs you have to make less than $11.90 an hour. If a person makes more than that, they could lose out on a majority of those programs. Cooper says the average loss for a family could be around $4,500 in annual child care alone.

”Now if you take it to $15, now that $3 an hour, more than that $12. Times that by the yearly employment of 1280 hours, would put you at $6,000. That would get you about $4,500. So that is why it needs to be $15 and not between $12-$15,” said Cooper.

The meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday, in room 120 at the Polk Co. Administration building.

”I’m hopeful we can get the frame-work completed for an incremental minimum wage increase and take it to the board of supervisors and start drafting an ordinance. Hopefully, have something together but September or October at the latest,” said Hockensmith.