Polk County Minimum Wage Task Force Trying to Find Middle Ground in Discussions

DES MOINES, Iowa -- For the first time in nearly a decade, Polk County is considering raising its minimum wage.

Monday afternoon, the Polk County Minimum Wage Task Force met to discuss an increase. Right now, it's equal to the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

This is a topic that is divided with both sides equally passionate about it.

The county hasn't raised the minimum wage since 2008 and those in favor are calling for the increase to be raised to $15 an hour while some supervisors are hoping to find a compromise between $9 and $12 an hour.

“You hope you find middle ground and that`s what we`re attempting to do, it`s a very fine line I think, we want to have a positive impact on low-wage workers and we also want as many workers as we can to be impacted by an increase,” said Polk County Supervisor Tom Hockensmith

Hockensmith proposed increasing the county's minimum wage to $8.75 an hour the first year and increase it $1 for three years ending at $10.75 an hour. Currently, 29 other states have a higher minimum wage and every state that surrounds Iowa minus Wisconsin also pays higher than $7.25 an hour.

If the board did pass something, cities would be allowed to opt out.

West Des Moines Mayor, Steve Gaer says his city spans four counties with the majority of the jobs spread out between Dallas and Polk County. He says if only Polk County passes an increase, the city will have to opt out unless Dallas County agrees to match it.

“The city wants the same minimum wage in both counties, we're not opposed to them raising it to a reasonable amount but it needs to be the same in both Dallas and Polk Counties, so we don't pick winners and losers from a business stand point,” said Gaer.

Hockensmith says realistically he thinks there may need to be at least two more meetings before a decision is made. He hopes to have an ordinance drafted by October at the latest.