Obama pitches minimum wage hike with Dem governors

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2014 at 5:06 pm •  Published: February 21, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Barack Obama pushes for a minimum wage increase, the real action is in the states.

Meeting with Democratic governors at the White House, Obama sought to build momentum Friday for his effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016. But he noted that much of the activity surrounding his push to address income inequality through higher wages is happening on a state level in Hawaii, Washington, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois and other states.

"This is not just good policy. It also happens to be good politics," Obama said. "Because the truth of the matter is the overwhelming majority of Americans think that raising the minimum wage is a good idea."

Taking a veiled swipe at a prominent Republican, Obama noted that wages were increased in New Jersey by public referendum, even though it was opposed by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Democrats have assailed Christie in recent weeks over a political payback scandal that has engulfed his administration.

Republicans have opposed increasing the minimum wage, asserting that it will kill jobs. GOP leaders seized upon a report earlier this week by Congress' nonpartisan budget analysts that found the wage increase could reduce jobs in 2016 by about 500,000, or 0.3 percent.

Republican governors gathered at a hotel near the White House suggested that raising the minimum wage was an issue better left to the individual states and the free market.

"I'm not for increasing the minimum wage because I'm concerned it would destroy jobs, especially for small business owners," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the chair of the National Governors Association. "The market will take care of itself."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican, wouldn't say whether he supported Obama's proposal when asked.

"My focus is on getting jobs that pay more than minimum wage," he said, citing a state program that helps create jobs that pay $11.50 an hour and new trade jobs that pay more than $50,000 a year. "I'm working on that."

Fallin said she wasn't worried about political fallout from Republican opposition to a higher minimum wage, despite polls that show most Americans support the president's plan.

With Republicans opposing the wage increase in Congress, many states have tried to act on their own.

At least 14 states are pursuing efforts to raise the minimum wage this year, according David Cooper, an economic analyst with The Economic Policy Institute. Cities such as Chicago, New York, San Diego, Seattle and Oakland, Calif., are also exploring minimum wage increases, he said.