Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Kasich blocks local control over minimum wage

12/22/16 08:40 AM—Updated 12/22/16 09:04 AM
By Steve Benen

It’s usually one of the core principles of conservatism: local control is ideal. The concept is based on the idea that the closer the government is to the public – literally and physically – the more responsive and effective it will be in reflecting Americans’ interests.

Unless, that is, local citizens want to raise the minimum wage. At that point, it’s important for Republicans at the state level to put aside their principles and block progressive governance. Take the latest Cleveland Plain Dealer report, for example.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday signed legislation blocking next year’s special election vote on whether to raise Cleveland’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, according to his office.

Senate Bill 331 prohibits communities in the state from raising the minimum wage beyond the state’s minimum wage rate, currently set at $8.10 per hour. State lawmakers passed the bill earlier this month at the request of Cleveland city officials and others, who sought to forestall a special election on the wage hike next May.

Just to clarify, the goal from proponents of a wage hike was to put the question to Cleveland voters: if local citizens wanted to increase the minimum wage, it’d be up to them to vote for such a policy next fall. Ohio’s Republican governor and Republican-led legislature acted to take the authority out of voters’ hands.

Ohio’s current minimum wage is $8.10 per hour, a figure that will rise to $8.15 per hour next year. If a city decided it wanted a minimum of $8.20 per hour, the new state law would prevent such a change – regardless of the wishes of local voters or local officials.

What’s more, it’s not just Ohio: the Huffington Post reported that 20 states have now passed laws “that preempt local governments from raising the minimum wage or requiring benefits for workers that go beyond what’s required by the state.”

If proponents of a hike are feeling discouraged by developments at the state level, federal indifference towards the minimum wage will soon be even more exasperating. The Republican Congress is committed to ignoring requests on the issue, and though Donald Trump’s position was widely misreported during the campaign, the president-elect has long opposed any increases to the federal minimum.

The last national increase to the minimum wage was in 2007. As a result of this year’s elections, Americans shouldn’t expect any federal action on this issue until 2021 at the earliest.

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