An effort to raise Arkansas' minimum wage failed to make it out of a House committee Tuesday. The measure by Democratic Rep. Butch Wilkins of Bono would have increased the state's minimum wage by two dollars to $8.25 for all employees, except part-time student workers at universities.
“I don’t think the facts will show that the minimum wage increase is really harmful to the economy,” said Wilkins.
“I don’t think this is a party issue. I think this is a people issue. We’ve got to make up our minds whether we want to help the poor people in this state or not. I cannot imagine what some of these people are going through trying to raise a family on what they’re making."
After an hour-long discussion, the measure failed on a roll call vote in the House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee.
Republican Rep. David Meeks of Greenbrier says many employers cannot increase worker salaries, because companies are already managing high fuel, food, and healthcare costs.
“I have heard from local people and local businesses who said we would love to pay our people more than minimum wage, but if we do we will either have to go out of business because we won’t be able to afford to keep them, or we’ll have to pass that cost on to consumers,” Meeks said.
Other Republican lawmakers were concerned that an increase in the minimum wage at this time could put undue strain on small businesses when the economy is still in a state of flux.
Two Democrats joined with Republicans on the panel to prevent the bill from advancing. The final vote was 6 to 10.