Democratic gubernatorial challenger Jared Henderson tells KUAR he is in favor of an initiative to raise Arkansas's minimum wage to $11 an hour. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has yet to comment and Libertarian Mark West opposes the ballot measure, as well as the concept of a minimum wage.
The ballot item would incrementally raise the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2022. It’s currently $8.50 an hour. Canvassers need to collect 67,887 valid signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.
Henderson calls the gradual approach “thoughtful” and “responsible.”
Henderson told KUAR in a statement, "I believe every hardworking Arkansan should be able to earn a livable wage no matter what profession they are in. I support the ballot initiative that proposes incrementally increasing the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2022. We must approach wage increases with the consideration that while they will boost our local economy, we cannot harm local businesses in the process or eliminate jobs. This initiative is thoughtful in that consideration and is a responsible approach to ensuring that we all benefit as a result."
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s campaign has not yet answered whether the Republican incumbent supports or opposes raising the minimum wage. Hutchinson belatedly endorsed the last minimum wage increase, from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour, back in 2014. But he preferred a lower figure of $7.25 an hour.
Libertarian Mark West says the “free market” should determine wages and that minimum wage laws do more harm than good - despite good intentions. West told KUAR in a statement, "Certainly. I prefer wages be set by the free market. Minimum wage laws typically have a negative impact on jobs for low-skilled workers and family businesses. I understand the desire for fairness with giant corporations that can afford to pay more and don’t but instead are subsidizing their labor costs on the backs of hard-working tax payers through food stamps and Arkansas Works."
West continued, "I also feel that large corporations would take advantage of this and would further cut employee hours and further enhance automation therefore eliminating more jobs and exacerbating an already tenuous labor market in our State. The wage increase inevitably would not be paid by the employers, but would be passed through in higher prices. Couple that with a State that already pays high sales taxes and our most vulnerable citizens will be the inadvertent targets, when the goal was to lift them up."
Canvassers are expected to begin collecting signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, which has already been by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, by next week.
This post will be updated.