Ohioans could vote in November on upping the minumum wage

By Todd DeFeo - The Center Square

COLUMBUS — The “Raise the Wage Ohio Amendment” would increase the minimum wage in Ohio to $9.60 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2021. Under the proposal, the rate would increase annually until it reaches $13 per hour on Jan. 1, 2025.

After reaching $13 per hour, the minimum wage would increase annually based on the rate of inflation.

“People working 40 hours a week at minimum wage can barely afford groceries,” Anthony Caldwell, director of public affairs for SEIU District 1199, said in a news release from Ohioans for Raising the Wage. “We’ve got to do something. Minimum wage is not enough to cover even the most basic needs.”

In a letter, Yost said he certified the proposed amendment without “passing on the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure.” Instead, he noted, “the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment.”

To earn the certification, proponents gathered an initial round of 1,000 signatures in favor of the hourly wage hike.

Once the attorney general’s office certifies the summary language and county boards of elections certify the initial signatures, the Ohio Ballot Board determines if the proposed amendment includes one or more issues.

Then, the petitioners must collect signatures from registered voters statewide. In total, Ohioans for Raising the Wage said it needs nearly 443,000 valid signatures by July 1.

In a blog post, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce said it believes “the market will continue to raise Ohioans’ wages which makes artificial increases as proposed by this new amendment unnecessary.”

Critics say raising the minimum leads to job losses, reduced worker hours and decreases in benefits because businesses will have to offset the increased costs.

The push to raise the minimum wage is a hot-button issue for Democrats nationwide. The proposed amendment is in addition to a bill pending in the state legislature that would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023.

In Ohio, state Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, introduced another measure, House Bill 34, to raise the minimum wage. The bill is pending before the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

As introduced, the bill would have increased minimum pay to $12 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, and increased yearly by $1 an hour until it reached $15 per hour on Jan. 1, 2023. If the bill advances, lawmakers will likely need to amend the measure to modify the start date.

In 2006, voters passed a constitutional amendment requiring Ohio’s minimum wage increase by the rate of inflation every Jan. 1. This year, the minimum wage increased to $8.70 per hour for most hourly workers and $4.35 for tipped employees.

By Todd DeFeo

The Center Square