Things are looking pretty good for raising the minimum wage in Maine these days. Bangor just passed an increase to go into effect in 2017 and Portland’s increase to $10.10 an hour will go into effect next month (although a local Green Party referendum to increase the wage higher and faster was defeated).
Maine now boasts the only two cities in New England with their own minimum wage ordinances and and South Portland is also considering an increase, to $12 an hour.
On the statewide level, the coalition that I’m a part of, Mainers for Fair Wages, has collected more than 90,000 signatures, all but guaranteeing that an initiative to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2017 and then a dollar a year to $12 in 2020 (and then indexing it to inflation while also raising the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers) will be on the ballot this November.
Even the Maine Restaurant Association, which has fought minimum wage laws since its inception and opposed a 50-cent increase just a few months ago in the legislature, now supports a statewide increase, according to testimony to the Bangor City Council by MRA head Greg Dugal.
Governor LePage, however, remains staunchly opposed. He has railed against statewide increases and proposed legislation that would prevent cities from setting their own minimum wage.
Thanks to his comments from his recent town hall at the University of Southern Maine, however, we now know that some of that opposition may be due to the fact that LePage has absolutely no idea what the minimum wage is or how it affects the economy.
In video from the event, which you can watch below courtesy of Andi Parkinson (at about the 31-minute mark), LePage first claims that the state wage is $7.65 (it’s $7.50) and then starts citing a long list of statistics about states’ minimum wages and per-capita income, almost all of which are wrong.
“Does anyone know what the federal minimum wage is?” asks LePage at one point. When an audience member shouts the correct figure ($7.25), LePage confidently corrects them.
“Nope. It’s still in the five-dollar range. It has never been changed.”
The effects LePage cites from differences in the minimum wage are similarly wrong. For instance, he claims that Florida, which he cites as having a low wage and no income tax, has a per-capita income level “significantly above Maine.” In fact, Maine’s per-capita income is significantly higher than Florida ($27,322 vs. $26,499 in 2014).
Governor Paul LePage’s town halls, like many of his public appearances, are often a cavalcade of this kind of misinformation. Many of the supposed facts and statistics that he cites during these meetings can be easily checked and quickly determined to be completely wrong.
It’s one of the major failings of Maine’s media that our governor so constantly, blatantly lies about so many important issues and gets away with it. If I had to guess, I’d say the lack of accountability on this comes from a combination of the confidence he expresses while advancing these lies, the timeframes on which reporters operate (which often don’t allow for much fact-checking) and the media’s preference for reporting on controversy rather than policy details (and LePage gives plenty of statements at these events to satisfy that demand).