Portland Minimum Wage Fight Prompts Ad War

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Groups on both sides of the minimum wage debate have engaged in an all-out media blitz in the weeks leading up to a vote Tuesday on whether to raise the minimum wage in Portland, Maine to $15 an hour.

The minimum wage ordinance will be voted on by city residents. Patriotic Millionaires has launched a media campaign in support. Its focus is not just on Portland but debates happening across the state. The Too Far, Too Fast PAC, however, is opposing the idea with its own ad spots. The ads appear on television as well as online. The Portland Regional Chamber is helping to oppose the minimum wage increase.

“We launched this campaign with a couple allies,” Chamber President Chris Hall told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We just put small business owners in front of the camera to tell what the impact an increase will have.”

The PAC released its first advertisement Oct. 20. If passed, the Portland ordinance will be phased in overtime. The Portland Green Independent Committee fought to get the ordinance on the ballot. Patriotic Millionaires normally fights for minimum wage increases on the national level. Its latest advertisements focusing on Maine premiered Monday.

“This is the first time Patriotic Millionaires has gotten involved in a state issue,” Justin Strekal, a spokesman for the group, told TheDCNF. “We do plan to do much more as things go forward.”

Pointing at Seattle, Strekal noted there are already examples of how a $15 minimum wage can benefit a city. The city led the way in passing the wage increase back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years. Some Seattle businesses, though, have reported problems because of the increase.

“Like any economic policy, there are some ramification.” Strekal noted. “We are seeing how its playing out.”

Hall warns Patriotic Millionaires is an outside group coming into a debate it knows little about. He stated different political ideologies locally along with businesses have already been working to find solutions that work for everyone.

“I’m proud the chamber can be part of this conversation with progressives,” Hall noted. “We have local people talking about local issues versus a national organization talking abstract national concepts.”

“The two leading candidates for mayor, they are both opposed to it,” he added. “There are 10 people running for city council and seven oppose it.”

For Strekal, increasing the minimum wage is only part of the solution. He advocates for indexing the increase to inflation. Indexing the minimum wage will help to ensure it raises as the cost of living goes up too. Hall, though, says the minimum wage should be determined based on the median wage in the city.

“This is a very small business environment,” Hall stated. “Putting the minimum wage up to $15 will jeopardize small businesses.”

The impact minimum wage increases have on workers and employers is in dispute. Critics often argue increasing the minimum wage, specially as high as $15 an hour, will hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities. The problem is businesses need to offset the extra cost of labor by either raising prices or cutting workers.

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