Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nussle & the Minimum Wage - first against, for it, against it?

{Cross posted from No Nussle blog}

This just in, Democrats & union supporters are planning to place minimum wage increase ballot initiatives up for a vote in 2006 races in key states where incumbent Republicans are showing signs of weakness. There’s a great post from SusanG over at Daily Kos detailing the initiatives. In particular, I think (and SusanG concurs) that these sort of initiatives could serve as a strong counter to Republican attempts to use ballot initiatives on marriage to drive GOP turnout efforts. According to her post (from the Boston Globe):
Last year, both minimum wage increases on state ballots won overwhelmingly. Voters in Florida and Nevada -- two states that went narrowly for Bush -- overwhelmingly supported a higher minimum wage, giving ballot measures 71 percent support in Florida and 68 percent in Nevada. (The Nevada initiative must be approved again in 2006 before it can take effect.)
Democrats say they hope to replicate Republicans' success in 2004, when ballot initiatives banning gay marriage passed in all 11 states they were offered. The initiatives were credited with boosting GOP turnout in those states.

Now, the interesting question (for me, the No Nussle “guy”, at least) is where exactly Jim Nussle stands on the minimum wage. Back in 2000 when Nussle was running for reelection against Democrat Donna Smith in Iowa’s 2nd District he had this to say in a public debate (Telegraph Herald, Oct. 27, 2000):
Nussle and Smith took turns being the first to answer questions from a panel of reporters, with an opportunity to answer once the other candidate gave their rebuttal. Given the chance to ask Nussle a question directly, Smith said Nussle played the role of a fiscal conservative when he first went to Congress but voted to give himself $ 47,000 in raises over the 10 years. "Why are you part of the problem?" she asked. "You're not taking care of the most vulnerable in the nation." Nussle answered that just before the debate he voted in favor of a minimum wage bill that passed, and said, "It is important to have a livable minimum wage."

This is kind of confusing. The way I’m reading this statement, and it seems the way Nussle spoke it, is that Nussle would support a “livable minimum wage”. It’s further muddled by a Nussle vote back in back in 1996 that increased the minimum wage to the current $5.15/hour (Telegraph Herald, May 26, 1996):
MINIMUM WAGE: The House approved, 266 for and 162 against, an amendment to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $4.75 an hour on July 1 and to $5.15 a year later. The 90-cent increase was added to a bill (HR 1227) that, as later sent to the Senate, continues the requirement that businesses of all sizes pay the federally required minimum wage (next issue).

A yes vote was to raise the minimum wage.
Manzullo voted no.
IOWA - Nussle voted no.
Gunderson voted yes. Klug voted no.

EXEMPTION ISSUE: The House refused, 196 for and 229 against, to exempt the nation's smallest businesses - those with gross annual sales of less than $500,000 - from having to pay the minimum wage or overtime to future hires. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 1227) that raises the minimum wage by 90 cents to $5.15 an hour (see previous vote).

A yes vote was to exempt small businesses from having to pay the minimum wage.
Manzullo voted yes.
IOWA - Nussle voted yes.

Back in 1996 it seems that Nussle believed that a “livable minimum wage” was somewhere BELOW $5.15/hour and also believed that small businesses should be EXEMPT from paying the minimum wage to future hires. I think this could be an EXCELLENT issue for Democrats to push Nussle on during the general campaign (if he beats Vander Plaats) as well as a great issue for them to focus on during the primary. One way to keep young people in-state is to pay them well. Higher minimum wages can attract better talent to the area as well as drive consumer spending. These are factors that can help attract better paying companies to the state as well as making the state an engine of regional economic development. This is besides the fact that a living wage is a SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE.

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